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Paul Trombino III has directed the Iowa Department of Transportation for a little more than a year. He was appointed to that post in May 2011 by Gov. Terry Branstad after working at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation for 17 years. His initiation on the Iowa job was the flooding in western Iowa last summer, which showed him how the department handles emergency procedures and ways to improve those procedures. In his first year here, Trombino has made a point to connect with business entities across the state, including the Iowa Economic Development Authority.


What brought you to Iowa?

Ultimately it had to do with the governor and lieutenant governor. We had a good connection, and I really appreciated the philosophy that (Branstad) brought and his style.


What have you learned about the state in your first year?

I learned a lot about the system. Obviously how a transportation system functions. I’ve learned a lot about the business community, some of the primary business components in Iowa – obviously agriculture being one – and how that functions related to transportation systems. I always like to say it’s a robust system. This state has a lot of advantages. There’s some key economic advantages that this system has, and (I’ve been) trying to understand how that fits from a commerce perspective, but also how it’s transitioning, what’s changing across the state with how demographics are changing and how things fit into that.


What does your job consist of?

Obviously, I want to provide leadership for the department, but also laying down a vision for really where we want to go. Having the opportunity to do outreach -- whether it be with cities or counties or associations or business groups across the state -- is very helpful. It helps me collect information and get a sense of what the needs are out there and also to weigh that with how we’re functioning in the department, and ultimately set a vision to meet that need. What I’ve tried to do is pull pieces of that together.


How closely do you work with businesses?

One of the areas I think (is important) for transportation is to be closely connected to the business community. Understand a lot of times with transportation you try to time it, especially with potential business activities that happen. What happens is we can end up being late a lot. And so what’s critical for our work is to be as early as we can, understand how marketplaces are changing, understanding not to be reactive but to be very, very proactive. One of the things we’ve done is we’ve tried to connect with chambers across the state to have a good connection with them. The department has always had a good connection with (metropolitan planning associations and regional planning associations) across the state, and we want to take that almost a step before ... so that we can get a good sense for a business that locates in or around the system, and what is the future plan for how they see it? What are their needs?


What are your goals?

There are a lot. The department has spent a lot of time talking about a couple things. First one is we just got a new federal bill that covers the next two years. Federal funding is a sizable piece of what we do. ... It has given us some stability over the next two years, I think, from a funding perspective. From a focus perspective, it is a couple of key things that we really want to focus on. Freight – we just had our first Freight Advisory Council meeting. I’m very excited about this. It’s really businesses and freight movers working with the department on things we need to look for. Iowa is a crossroads state. Freight is integral to what we do. The other thing I’ll mention is mobility. When I define mobility, modes are important, but also information is, I believe, the key piece in allowing people to be mobile and have mobility. It’s important for us, as a department, to make sure we’re giving people information about inconvenience. That’s true for a business as much as it is for a person. ... If we say we are going to close a ramp at 6 p.m., that doesn’t mean 5:55 p.m.



What do you do outside work?

Family time is obviously very important. I swim, bike and run. I’ve done quite a few triathlons, done a lot more running this year. I’ve had the opportunity to get out and ride and run and swim. That’s been great for me. It’s given me an opportunity to get connected with different groups, and it’s been a great experience. I am doing the Hy-Vee Triathlon.