About 60 people representing business, banking, government, Native American Tribes, and general citizenry throughout western Washington, attended a public forum on jobs and economic growth on the evening of Jan. 26, at the Cowlitz Regional Conference Center in Longview, Washington.
"In these difficult economic times, it is critical that USDA help lead the way in generating a community dialogue that captures ideas that can lead to solutions," said Mario Villanueva, Washington State Director for USDA Rural Development. "We must be about the task of doing all that we can to help grow the economic health of our rural communities in Washington."
The Washington State forums are part of a larger effort across the country, where USDA is working with the Obama Administration to find ways to help revitalize the economy in rural America.
"Our farming and rural communities are the building blocks of our state's economy," said Judy Olson, Farm Service Agency State Executive Director in Spokane. "It is vital that we maintain the economic health or our rural communities.
"As USDA and the administration work to revitalize our nation's economy, it's important we hear from the people in these communities," she added.
Participants at the forum were passionate as participants shared their ideas (which were captured on video) on how to improve the economy based on discussion questions.
"Main Street businesses are on the edge of failing," said Susan Hoosier, an advisor for SBDC in Cowlitz County. "Access to capital is just not available. We need to change this trend."
"We have some great opportunities for alternative energy," said Bud Denny of the Makah Indian Tribe. "We need to increase the loads that can be carried off our reservation. With increased load capability we could attract small industries where we might be able to offer tax breaks."
Still there have been some improvements and potential for growth in Cowlitz County and the surrounding region that has suffered 13 percent unemployment since the economic turndown. "We have the potential of producing green jobs through wood waste and we are seeing people starting to get back to work," said Ted Sprague, President of the Cowlitz Economic Development Council.
Other suggestions for improvements included supporting small tax credits, direct loans to "for-profit" businesses, and less regulation. Others suggested more programs to encourage small scale organic farming, expanded use of nuclear power, as well as full utilization of existing natural resources such oil and natural gas.
A second forum is scheduled for eastern Washington on Thursday, Jan. 28 from 6:30 p.m. - 9 p.m. at the Perry Technical Institute Auditorium, 2011 W. Washington Ave, in Yakima.
A report on the forum will be sent to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and will be made available on the USDA Rural Development Washington State website by February 15 at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/wa.
Mario Villanueva, Washington State Director for USDA Rural Development, responds to questions at the forum held in Longview. Also pictured is Judy Olson, Farm Service Agency State Executive Director in Spokane and Ted Sprague, President of the Cowlitz Economic Development Council.
Cowlitz County resident Al Wilson proposes tax credits for small business and more off shore drilling to help the economy recover.
This report was filed by Phil Eggman, Public Information Officer, USDA Rural Development Washington State Office.
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”
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