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About 200 Nebraska Job Forum Attendees Bear the Cold to Have Their Voice Heard

Despite frigid temperatures and snow-packed and icy roads, nearly 200 Nebraskans brought their ideas and solutions to the Nebraska Forum on Rural Jobs and Small Business Credit on Friday, January 8. Read more »

Rural Development and Farm Service Agency Hold Massachusetts Jobs Forum

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. Read more »

Large Crowd Turns out for Mississippi Jobs Forum

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. Read more »

North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota Come Together for a Jobs Forum

Freezing temperatures, swirling winds and snow didn’t stop about 90 people from coming out and sharing their ideas with the USDA about how the agency can best create jobs and economic development in rural communities. The North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota offices of USDA Rural Development and the Farm Service Agency hosted a tri-state rural jobs and economic development forum on January 6 at the North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton.

Congressman Early Pomeroy of North Dakota attended the forum and provided opening remarks. “I want to hear people’s ideas on how public dollars can best be spent to increase job opportunities in our rural communities,” Pomeroy said. “Strategies need to be sharp, focused and effective.”

Healthcare, access to capital and innovation were three key issues that a six-person panel and audience members felt needed to be addressed in order to get the rural economy headed in the right direction.

Panel members consisted of representatives from the fields of renewable energy, banking, labor, healthcare, manufacturing and American Indian economic development. The audience was made up of a broad range of interests, including farmers, mayors, and economic developers.

“Our biggest challenge is healthcare,” said panel member John Riskey, a mayor and BCTGM union president. “Right now healthcare costs prevent businesses from hiring more employees and force them to work existing employees overtime because it’s cheaper than hiring more help.”

A lively discussion also centered on the issue of access to credit and capital in rural areas.

“We need to do things to enhance the incentives for existing businesses to expand,” said panel member Jan Lundebecht, president of First Security Bank in Benson, Minn. “They’ve proven that they can succeed and they’re the ones that will keep providing jobs in the long term.”

An audience member also suggested that Rural Development examine the possibility of adding a direct business and industry loan program to complement its existing guaranteed business and industry loan program. The audience member said the combination of direct and guaranteed financing works very well in the community facilities program and should be tried in the business and industry program.

Panel member DelRay German, TERO director for the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, said that America needs to get back to doing what made it great in the first place: Innovate.

“If people have a little appetite for innovation, you need to whet it, you need to draw it out of them,” German said. “How can community leaders help people be more innovative again?”

A mayor in the audience also stressed the importance of focusing on research and development. He said the innovation and investment we seek to help turn around our economy won’t happen unless government, banks and organizations figure out ways to fund research and development efforts.

Tri-State officials at the Jobs Forum in North Dakota

The tri-state forum was an excellent opportunity for the USDA to work regionally and bring a diverse group of people together to collect valuable feedback on the rural economy. North Dakota Rural Development state director Jasper Schneider considered the forum a success, but realizes that the hard work has just begun in helping the rural economy rebound.

“I want to thank everyone for braving the weather and participating,” Schneider said. “We heard a lot of good ideas and we’re going to be sharing each and every one with President Obama and the Administration. I hope we can continue to do similar forums in the future and hear directly from the people that use and benefit from the many USDA programs.”

Submitted by USDA Rural Development State Directors:

Jasper Schneider, North Dakota

Elsie Meeks, South Dakota

Colleen Landkamer, Minnesota

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”.

Job Creation and Labor Training Discussed at Guam Jobs Forum

Labor, banking, local government and development officials joined representatives from USDA in Guam last month for a jobs forum, one of a number scheduled across America.  The Obama Administration, through USDA Rural Development and Farm Service Agency staff, is seeking comments from Americans in all walks of life, including small business owners and local leaders following a jobs summit at the White House in December.

Federal, state and local officials at the Guam Jobs Forum Those participating noted that Guam’s economy is separate from the United States, and closely tied to Japan’sas well as to other Asian markets.  Transportation costs are high.  For example, the island of Rota is just 18 miles from Guam, but those speaking said the cost of shipping between the islands is the same as the cost of shipping from California to Guam.

Officials were told that Guam needs a supply of skilled labor and more training opportunities. On the plus side, military activity and service businesses, like restaurants, are economic drivers. Topics that were discussed to boost the economy include promoting a “buy local” movement, developing agricultural products for local residents to buy and eat, improving inter-island infrastructure and becoming a regional educational and business hub.

The comments received at the meeting, and those posted on the USDA blog, will be provided to USDA and White House officials for review.  USDA officials in Hawaii conducted a jobs meeting yesterday (Wednesday) and another is set for tomorrow (Friday).

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”.

USDA Hosts Jobs and Economic Growth Forum in New Jersey

USDA’s Rural Development and Farm Service Agency hosted a Jobs and Economic Growth Forum on January 5, 2010 at the Rutgers EcoComplex in Bordentown, NJ.   USDA was asked to lead the effort to listen to community leaders, non-profit organizations, business owners, economists, federal, state and local officials on how to stimulate job creation in New Jersey.  This Forum followed the lead of President Obama’s December 3, 2009 Roundtable discussion.

We were very pleased and fortunate to have Senator Bob Menendez and Congressman John Adler present to address the diverse audience of over 50 attendees.  Both Senator Menendez and Congressman Adler offered specific thoughts on plans for economic growth.  Providing keynote addresses were New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Doug Fisher, nationally renowned Economists Dr. James Hughes and Dr. Joe Seneca from Rutgers University as well as Brian Schilling of the Food Policy Institute of Rutgers University.  The agricultural community and rural interests were also well represented at the Forum.  Everyone shared their thoughts on ways to improve the economy and how their organization may be able to partner with other organizations to further this initiative.

Senator Bob Menendez (far right); Donald Swartz, Director Economic Development South Jersey;  NJ Secretary of Agriculture Doug Fisher; Dean Robert Goodman, Rutgers University participate in the New Jersey Jobs and Economic Growth Forum Congressman John Adler (seated far right);  NJ Secretary of Agriculture Doug Fisher; Dr. Joe Seneca,  Economist from Rutgers University;  Brian Schilling, Food Policy Institute of Rutgers University and Howard Henderson (standing), State Director, USDA Rural Development, intently listen during Jobs and  Economic Growth Forum

Major obstacles to economic growth, such as lack of capital for small businesses, tax and regulatory requirements and lack of a skilled workforce, were discussed.  Innovative ideas to lead to job creation were presented.

We want to thank all those that attended for their participation and give a special thanks to Rutgers University for providing the facilities for this great event.

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”.

By Howard Henderson, NJ State Director, USDA Rural Development