How do you garner valuable feedback from key partners and stakeholders from around your state?
Just ask and let them speak, which is what USDA Rural Development leadership did in Washington State when they convened a stakeholder outreach meeting in Olympia on July 29 to discuss Rural Development priorities for President Obama’s 2013 budget and 2012 Farm Bill.
“The importance of this Regulatory Reform Stakeholder outreach meeting cannot be understated,” said Mario Villanueva, USDA Rural Development Washington State Director. “We had a tremendous response and interest in this convening with about 70 stakeholders attending the interactive meeting.”
“We wanted to know what was working well and where we as an agency could improve, which is basic to running a viable public agency,” he added.
Earlier this year, President Obama signed Executive Order 13563, “Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review” requiring all federal agencies to review existing regulations and determine which, if any, should be amended, supplemented, or repealed. The Executive Order sets out principles and requirements that promote public participation in government and encourage agencies to simplify its processes to reduce costs and promote consistency for businesses and the public.
To accommodate the Executive Order, the forum was held in Olympia, Washington’s State Capital, allowing key stakeholders to address issues in three areas: general topics; programs that help rural communities thrive; and programs that help rural entrepreneurs create economic opportunities. Comments would be gathered and pass up the chain up command, ultimately to the newly formed White House Rural Council.
After State Director Villanueva greeted the 70 stakeholders, representing local, state, and federal government, business, education and housing, participants were broken down into three groups for further discussion.
For example, General Topics, which was facilitated by Community Program Director Peter McMillin, focused on processes, rulemaking, and regulatory requirements, while the Rural Communities group, facilitated by Housing Director Tammy Repine, focused on issues related to community building, community facilities and housing.
Entrepreneurship was the third group and had a definite focus on business, job creation and renewable energy issues and questions.
“It was a great forum!,” said Tuana Jones, Business & Cooperative Program Director who facilitated the Entrepreneurship group. “I was so pleased to see so many come out on short notice on a Friday afternoon. We had a great brain trust in our session and I wished we would have had longer to talk. In fact, some in our group wish to stay in contact to further our discussions and look at local solutions.”
State Director Villanueva agreed, saying he was extremely impressed with the competency and knowledge of those who attended and with their meaningful feedback.