Rural Development’s Southern New England jurisdiction received a strong response when we sent out the call to our partners, fellow community development strategists and business leaders to join us for a local jobs forum. Community and business leaders in our area told us they were eager for the opportunity to take part in a local conversation – like the national forum held by President Obama in early December, 2009 – exploring possible avenues for job creation in the region.
“I’ve never seen a financing crisis like the one we’re in now,” said Chris Sikes, Executive Director of the Western Massachusetts Enterprise Fund. “There is an incredible demand for working capital loans. We need to put more money out to small businesses in our area and we need to recognize how important it is to businesses in this region to work together and form coalitions.”
“In terms of job creation, I think the real players are people who already own businesses of five to twenty employees,” said Andrew Baker, Executive Director of Hilltown Community Development Corporation. “That’s probably the most productive area we can work in, in terms of helping businesses create jobs, because those are the folks who need some help in thinking about their expansion plans. It’s also a sector where USDA can help replace a funding source that has been lost at the state level.”
Also represented at the forum were: the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, the USDA’s Farm Service Agency, the Solidago Foundation, Diversified Construction, Franklin/Hampshire Regional Employment Board, Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association, the Office of Congressman John Olver, Valley Community Development Corporation, the Office of State Senator Stan Rosenberg, the Office of State Representative Ellen Story, the Office of State Representative Steve Kulik, University of Massachusetts Office of Community Relations, the Massachusetts Farm Bureau, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA), and the Franklin County Community Development Corporation.
The recommendations and suggestions provided by the wide range of stakeholders at the jobs forum in Massachusetts has elicited a feeling of excited purpose in the staff of Rural Development in Southern New England and has already led to possible future partnerships that we believe will make positive impacts on the local economy. We’re confident that the national discussion about stimulating job growth will benefit from the local perspectives these forums are providing.
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”.