Many dug out of snow drifts and bundled up due to temperatures well below zero on Saturday to attend the Tri-State Jobs & Economic Development Forum in St. Louis hosted by USDA Rural Development (RD) and Farm Service Agency (FSA) of Illinois, Iowa and Missouri. The forum was held in conjunction with the Missouri Governor’s Conference on Agriculture.
I welcomed the 175 attendees to St. Louis, set the stage for the forum and introduced the welcome video by USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. A cross section of rural areas was in attendance including youth from FFA and 4-H.
Bill Menner from Iowa RD introduced the five panelists who made short presentations on jobs related issues: Dr. Jon Hagler, Director of Missouri Department of Agriculture; Elisabeth Buck, Director of Iowa Workforce Development; Randy Harris, Program Director Laborers’ International Local 338; Brian Bauer with Business Banking Market Manager for National City Bank; and Sharon Gulick, Director University of Missouri Extension’s Community Economic and Entrepreneurial Development (EXCEED) Program.
Some of the “key” things I heard to impact jobs and the economic conditions centered around: enhanced opportunities to promote the “spirit of entrepreneurship” through incentives, technical assistance and capital; more use of collaboration on a regional basis to attract businesses; streamlining of government regulations and red tape for start up businesses plus improvements in tax code; more lenders willing to utilize government guarantees or other programs to help new or expanding businesses; more funding for jobs training to help with “skilling up” the workforce; more funding for summer youth programs; expansion of high speed rural broadband access; more funding for ethanol and bio-diesel programs; continued high levels of funding for RD infrastructure programs to sustain rural communities and provide for a high quality of life in rural areas to help maintain and attract businesses and jobs for skilled workers.
The entire forum was captured on audio and video plus numerous staff took notes and pictures. A report will be submitted to USDA Secretary Vilsack and President Obama.
We collected many recommendations and suggestions from a variety of partners and stakeholders during the forum. Many completed comment cards and we encouraged those in attendance and others that had contacted us to provide comments on the USDA Blog website www.usda.gov/blog/usda or e-mailing to firstname.lastname@example.org
We truly thank everyone that participated and do feel confident that the ideas being collected and submitted will provide a positive result in stimulating jobs and economic growth in the future.
Janie Dunning, Missouri State Director