CEDAR FALLS — When Fred Hubbell thinks about the future of Iowa, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate isn’t just looking a decade down the road.
“The state’s going to be here, hopefully, another 350 years, twice as long as it’s already been here, right? Well, that takes some investment,” Hubbell said. “Whether it’s a business or whether it’s a school or whether it’s a state, you can’t keep cutting your way to success. It just mathematically doesn’t work.”
Hubbell, a former chairman of retailer Younkers and former president of Equitable of Iowa life insurance company, held an hourlong discussion at University of Northern Iowa Thursday night with about a dozen students, faculty and staff to discuss the future of education and the workforce in Iowa.
It’s part of a statewide tour Hubbell launched after announcing his bid for governor. He focused on education and economic development by visiting higher education institutions and union training sites across the state.
Hubbell also faced a question on what UNI would look like in 10 years.
“I would hope that the institution would feel that it is contributing to the overall success of the state in terms of helping to educate and develop people here,” Hubbell said. “I think it’s incumbent upon all of us to try to work hard to make sure that our institutions like this one have the resources and have the support … to try to do the best job that you can to help the rest of the state be successful.”
He said it is unlikely the state can continue doing all it has done in the past, but also was clear education is a public good.
“It’s very vital to whole Waterloo-Cedar Falls area that this institution thrive, not just survive and you’re quickly … moving toward a survival mode as opposed to a thrive mode, and we need to turn that around,” Hubbell said.
Hubbell also got student perspectives on rising tuition rates. He noted the challenge of explaining to the public how higher education is more dependent on tuition as state support is cut.
Hubbell said that wouldn’t change overnight, but he is interested in reducing tax incentives for businesses that aren’t creating jobs in order to increase education funding. He said he would work to sell his ideas to business leaders.
Hubbell said his experience as a leader distinguishes him from a crowded field — there are at least seven Democrats considering vying for their party’s nomination in the June primary. Other Democratic candidates running or exploring a bid are state Sen. Nate Boulton, Des Moines; state Rep. Todd Prichard, Charles City; former Iowa Democratic Party Chair Andy McGuire; former Iowa City Mayor Ross Wilburn; former Des Moines School Board President Jon Neiderbach; former aide to Gov. Tom Vilsack John Norris; and union leader Cathy Glasson.