WINTERSET, Iowa -- 'Bakery Unlimited' in Winterset had a new intern in the kitchen on Thursday morning: Senator Joni Ernst.
Ernst spent her morning putting herself in the shoes (and hairnet) of a local baker to learn more about her craft and the struggles of her business. Marcia Sparks has owned the bakery for the last 35 years. She offered Ernst a tutorial in making fresh apple fritters and the difficulties of the modern small business economy.
"We were just talking about this issue in the kitchen, how there are a number of workers who once they start earning too much they lose federal benefits and then they will just stop coming to work," Ernst says, "If we can find a way to ease people up out of poverty and not punish them for doing better that would be a way to go."
Maintaining a workforce isn't the only problem Ernst says she's heard from employers. Iowa has a shortage of workers at a time when unemployment is near historic lows. Ernst says the solution lies with bringing in more qualified workers from outside of the US, but she says our immigration system needs to be corrected first.
"Iowa is one of those states and I hear from employers all across the state, whether they are small businesses or large manufacturers that we really are short workers. So I would love to see a change in the way we do business. Let's streamline and modernize our immigration," Ernst said.
Scott Turczynksi agrees wholeheartedly with Ernst in that regard.
Turczynski is COO of Heartland Companies and a member of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, who organized Ernst's trip to Winterset.
Turczynksi says he has trouble finding job candidates with the perfect qualifications for job openings. However he has found several overqualified candidates who are in the country on work visas. However he says flaws in that system don't allow those workers to stay employed for long.
"I have four employees from India and one from Pakistan and they are great employees. Very servant mind," Turczynski says, " They want to please you and want to make sure they do the job right. Its unfortunate that some laws could be relaxed so more can stay in this country if they have an employer who sponsors them."