Photo by Duane Tinkey
Photo by Duane Tinkey

The issue: Tax reform

Tax reform is a key issue for the Greater Des Moines Partnership, especially targeted tax relief for businesses and commercial property tax reform. Hinch is responsible for laying out the Partnership’s key issues to state and federal government representatives. The Partnership focuses on a broad range of issues, including workforce development, education and tax reform.

An Ames Straw Poll initially sparked Matt Hinch’s interest in politics. He enjoyed wandering from tent to tent and listening to candidates’ speeches or asking them questions.

A decade later, politics still play a major role in his life. After working for Congressman Tom Latham in Washington, D.C., he moved back to his home state to work in the Iowa House of Representatives’ Republican caucus and for Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen.

Hinch is now the senior vice president of government relations and public policy for the Greater Des Moines Partnership, which means he lays out the Partnership’s needs to the Iowa Legislature and Iowa’s congressional delegation “to create a better business climate in Central Iowa,” he said.

The Partnership is still developing its 2013 legislative agenda and is currently holding government policy committee meetings to discuss issues it plans to pursue, such as economic development, workforce development and education. The group will finalize its policy plans in November, he said.

“We’ll be dealing with economic development issues regarding corporate and personal income tax reform, targeted tax relief for businesses, targeting incentives for businesses, reducing regulations that are a hindrance to companies from growing and hiring more workers,” he said.

Last year, Gov. Terry Branstad placed a high priority on reducing commercial property taxes, stating that Iowa’s high rates placed a burden on businesses and detracted from the state’s competitiveness. And though various bills were drafted in the Republican-led House and Democratic-controlled Senate, a compromise was never reached.

Hinch said legislators have been debating property taxes for more than a decade.

“It’s an issue that everyone recognizes needs to be fixed -- that corporate property taxes are extremely high in Iowa and there needs to be some comprehensive reform to reduce that burden on Iowa’s businesses,” he said. “At the same time, we need to come up with a solution that strikes a balance that ensures our local communities that rely on property tax revenue can maintain essential services to Iowans.”

Hinch said he’s optimistic that Republicans and Democrats will be able to come to some kind of agreement during the upcoming 2013 session.

“All parties have shown they’re willing to make a good-faith effort toward reforming Iowa’s system to make it more competitive with neighboring states,” he said.

His experience and relationships with both federal and state lawmakers helps him better understand the legislative process as well as personalities to lobby effectively.

“Matt’s knowledge of the interworking of the federal and state legislative systems and his longtime personal relationships with key policymakers and staff in both Washington, D.C., and at the state Capitol make him a tremendous asset for the entire region in our collective efforts to move Central Iowa economic growth public policy priorities forward,” said Jay Byers, CEO of the Greater Des Moines Partnership.

And although Hinch’s past is filled with associations with Republican politicians, he said he understands the importance of working with members of both parties, adding that was a key job requirement during his time at the speaker of the House’s office.

“I not only had to work with all of the Republicans in the House, but also with all of the Democrats in the House,” he said. “Whether it was helping a member with a specific issue, like to set up a meeting with the speaker or to secure a room for someone, I felt like it was a responsibility of me to help every member of the Iowa House.”

The Partnership represents 24 affiliate chambers of commerce and 4,700 businesses in Central Iowa, and Hinch said he wants to be accessible and helpful to all of its members.

“I want the Ankeny chamber, if they feel that they have an issue, to sit down with me and explain it to me, and I’ll do everything I can to help with that,” he said. “There’s strength in numbers. It’s important for representatives to know that issues are not only important to members of an organization, but also to people in the community.”


Why’d you want to get involved with politics?

I got involved because I wanted to make a difference. In my initial job in Congressman Tom Latham’s office, one of my responsibilities was helping constituents with specific issues. And when you’re able to accomplish or help someone with a specific issue they have with a department or a specific case that they have, it’s rewarding. Ultimately that’s what elected office is about. You represent your constituents and you’re there to help them with the problems that they have. That was something that appealed to me and still does. Something that is unique with this role at the Partnership is that I get to continue to do that, just at a different level. I get to continue to help the city of Des Moines and other communities with issues.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned over years?

To listen. I think that the more you listen, the better informed you become, which in turn helps you communicate more fully with elected officials. I think that elected officials, too, many of them that I’ve worked with in the past have done a good job of listening to people. And that’s important in this business. The more you listen, the better you can represent your constituents or your clients.

Why did you want to come back and live in Des Moines?

I moved back to Des Moines because there is an excitement going on in Des Moines and Central Iowa. Ultimately, my wife and I, being from Des Moines – growing up here, being educated here – we always knew we wanted to return. But Central Iowa has a lot to offer and has a strong community. And with the development that’s going on, there’s a lot more to offer than when I was in high school. It’s an exciting place to be for young professionals, and it was something that factored into our decision.