Despite unexpected snowfall and cold temperatures, more than 50 people participated in a forum on jobs creation in Kentucky on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University on Tuesday.
Attendees included educators, farmers, large and small business owners, economists, economic development specialists and local and state political leaders. All were invited to participate at the request of USDA’s Rural Development and Farm Service Agency.
“The forum was a tremendous success. It was a constructive venue with diverse representation from a wide array of interest and concerns,” said Tom Fern, State Director for Rural Development. “Those attending appeared to be appreciative of the Obama Administration’s recognition and concerns for the ailing economy and programs being offered to assist those who are eligible.”
Fern went on to say that some of those in attendance expressed the need for local, state and federal representatives, along with grass roots leaders, to develop responsible and effective economic development plans. Moreover, those same leaders need to effectively utilize the resources available to grow our economy and enhance economic development throughout the Commonwealth.
Participants were asked to give candid responses to a series of questions, and with help from an experienced moderator; they provided invaluable insight into the economic problems facing the Commonwealth, as well as suggestions for dealing with them.
“The Jobs and Economic Opportunity Forum was a success. It was a privilege to join USDA’s Rural Development and many distinguished leaders representing agriculture, business, government and higher education from across the Commonwealth. This was a productive venue for allowing leaders to come together to share ideas and discuss steps than will assist in the administration’s efforts to grow the economy and put Kentuckians back to work,” stated John McCauley, State Executive Director of the USDA Farm Service Agency in Kentucky.
Many in the audience were vocal about the problems faced by their respective communities and how they would like the Obama Administration to address them. Much of the conversation was focused on the loss of manufacturing jobs, followed by a lack of working capital for business owners and the downturn in the housing and construction sectors.
Like many other states across the country, Kentucky has an unemployment rate of more than 10 percent (as of December 2009). In 2009, more than 6,200 full-time jobs were lost with the closing of 108 facilities, according to the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development.
The discussion also touched on the topic of education several times – specifically the need for more emphasis on improving all levels of the state’s education system, from primary to post-secondary institutions. Additionally, many participants expressed frustration with the state’s brain drain due to recent college graduates leaving the state to find work elsewhere and the underemployment of those that remain.
The Kentucky forum was one of many forums and roundtable discussions, which follow the Forum on Jobs and Economic Growth that President Obama hosted at the White House on Dec. 3, 2009.
“I enjoyed partnering with FSA and the many other federal, state and local leaders for making this forum an overwhelming success,” said Fern.
Submitted by Katherine Belcher
Public Information Coordinator/Kentucky
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”