Oklahomans gathered in Muskogee, Oklahoma on Tuesday to kick off 2010 by accepting President Obama’s invitation to participate in the development of the next step in his administration’s strategy to create jobs and promote economic growth. Nearly 50 people joined together on the first business day of 2010 to participate in USDA’s Jobs and Economic Growth Forum. The forum was organized to offer Oklahomans an opportunity to respond to the seven questions posed by the President. The group viewed a video welcome message from Deputy Secretary for USDA, Kathleen Merrigan, before delving into what proved to be a lively and productive three hour discussion.
The diversity of the issues discussed was reflective of the diversity of the attendees of the forum. Representatives from institutions of higher education believed that a job creation and economic growth plan must offer ways to evolve or expand education and training systems to address the current needs of individuals wishing to return to the workforce. In addition, investments must be made to expand education opportunities to growing sectors of the employment market; they reported that currently the growth is in health careers.
Representatives of youth organizations shared their belief that investing time and resources in the development of youth, especially through programs such as 4-H, FFA, and Junior Achievement type programs, has proven to be beneficial in fostering a good work ethic and developing essential skills to succeed. Small business owners and technical assistance providers shared their concerns regarding resources available to small businesses as well as infrastructure requirements and availability of technology required to make rural areas competitive. Representatives of the agriculture industry echoed the need to stimulate job creation stating that agriculture is dependent on off-farm income and on the support of viable communities. Several elected officials expressed concerns and offered suggestion from their legislative perspectives.
We were very pleased with the group’s participation. The sincere commitment to work together as Oklahomans to seek solutions to the current economic challenges was evident throughout the forum. We plan to submit Oklahoma’s answers to the President’s seven questions, as gleaned from the discussion, to US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for inclusion in his final report to the White House.
Oklahoma State Director, Rural Development
State Director, Farm Service Agency
State Representative Mike Brown – shares that in the current economic conditions, businesses are reluctant to add employees or expand.
Oklahoma State Director Ryan McMullen addressing the group.
Representatives from the Muscogee Creek Nation (Robert Miller-L black jacket, Claude Sumner-R red jacket) Expressing concerns about the rates and terms associated with obtaining credit.