The Mississippi Jobs Forum, a follow-up to a national Jobs Forum held in December by President Obama, was held on Wednesday, January 6, 2010.
I was pleased to host the event on behalf of USDA Rural Development along with Farm Service Agency State Director Mike Sullivan, and Natural Resources Conservation Service State Director Homer Wilkes. The discussion was facilitated by Leroy Brooks, an elected county Supervisor from Lowndes County.
By all accounts, our event was an across-the-board success. The attendance was approximately 90 participants – an exceptional number by any means, but especially significant due to the short notice and holiday conditions that the agencies (USDA RD, FSA, and NRCS) worked with. Also significant was the fact that participants included Congressman Bennie Thompson, three local elected officials, numerous city and county government officials; representatives of offices of U.S. Congressmen and Senators; officials in the state government; and other economic development professionals.
The discussion centered on the obstacles to reviving economic progress in rural Mississippi and on what new ideas can be presented to President Obama. Many of the participants focused on empowering small and local businesses to start or to grow. Another recurring area of comment involved local agriculture, including value-added programs and the use of agricultural by-products to produce alternative fuels and sources of energy. Numerous comments were made that called for loosening of restrictions and rules on government programs and funds, in particular the population and income requirements for some programs. There was an overall view that it might be time to re-think and re-justify older government programs, perhaps asking the question: “Is this particular program, as currently structured, creating success?” Other concerns centered on insuring that the outreach of government agencies was effective in making the potential users aware of the programs available.
Congressman Thompson addressed the crowd and encouraged the participants to utilize all available resources, from the local level on up, to work toward job creation and economic revitalization.
Our event concluded with an around the room, quick-answer session to the question “If President Obama walked in here right now and asked what he could do to help Mississippi, what would you tell him?” The energy of the event was reflected in the five-to-ten second answers given by participants, and a number of good ideas and suggestions came directly through this last portion.
Submitted by Mississippi Rural Development State Director Trina N. George, through Public Information Coordinator Ken Stribling
For a list of scheduled jobs meetings by state or to learn more, go to the Rural Development and FSA Job Roundtables Schedule, and the News Release, “USDA to Host Roundtables on Jobs, Economic Growth”.