RMA Armament hosted Sen. Joni Ernst for a visit Thursday. Ernst toured the facility, took a turn firing at one of RMA's armored plates and had a short meeting with RMA CEO Blake Waldrop and a few others about what concerns Ernst can address at the national level in the Senate.

Waldrop highlighted the need for the HUBZone program to be continued. HUB, which stands for historically underutilized business, is a program of the Small Business Administration which according to the SBA website “helps small businesses in urban and rural communities gain preferential access to federal procurement opportunities.”

One way it does this is by requiring at least three percent of federal contracts to come to HUBZones. Appanoose County is a HUBZone, but the status is set to expire in January and Waldrop said the federal government will be issuing contracts for new equipment in February or March.

Ernst said that the issue was on her radar and that she was hopeful the program could be extended.

“We will keep pushing this to make sure that the administration is aware of it, that SBA is aware of that and how vital that is for a lot of our rural areas, so I remain optimistic … that we would be able to see an extension,” said Ernst.

Waldrop also emphasized that the HUBZone can help all businesses within the zone, not just RMA.

“It benefits everybody,” said Waldrop. “Plus, us getting a section of the contract based on our HUBZone status is instant employment for tons of new people. It adds on more shifts, it adds on more equipment, it adds on more people. … That’s exactly what economic growth is supposed to do.”

Waldrop also spoke about his recent trip to Washington D.C. RMA was chosen to represent Iowa during “Made In America Week” in July. One business from each state was invited to the White House.

“Just to be selected to represent Iowa, it felt like we hit the lottery,” said Waldrop. “It was very honoring and humbling at the same time.”

Waldrop said he was able to network with others and they were able to meet several governors, senators, congressman and the President and Vice President.

“To be at the White House all day, President Trump shook my hand first when he walked into the East Room,” said Waldrop. “The thing that stuck out to me the most was the Vice President thanking me for my service in the Marine Corps. … I was blown away.”

Waldrop said that he and two other employees traveled to Washington, D.C. and were able to enjoy some sightseeing of the city for a few says as well.

Waldrop also talked to Ernst about some of what RMA is working on for the future.

RMA has also met with the NYPD in the last few months to possibly provide armored floor mats for their vehicles. RMA has partnered with Attack Mats, a company from Cedar Rapids that came up with the concept of armored floor mats. RMA is manufacturing the mats and Waldrop said that the NYPD is very interested in them.

“Body armor is always going to be our forte, that’s our cornerstone … but getting into vehicular stuff and maybe some aerospace down the road, the sky is the limit,” said Waldrop.

Ernst also heard from Tod Faris from the Chariton Valley Electric Cooperative. Faris wanted to urge Ernst to protect USDA rural development programs, which the current administration has called to reduce or eliminate. Faris talked about how the rural development programs have helped businesses like RMA get started in Appanoose County.

“We would hate to see those just go away,” said Faris.

“We will do the best we can to find ways of scaling back where we can but things that make sense, we will be very protective of,” said Ernst. “I do chair on Agriculture … the subcommittee on rural development and energy so those are things that I watch out for. Now I’m not an appropriator but I do policy within my subcommittee … so things like that through the USDA are very important.”

Waldrop said that he was very happy Sen. Ernst was able to visit the plant.

“I think this is the second time we’ve met,” said Waldrop. “She’s a terrific lady doing wonderful things for Iowa and I’m proud to support her.”