In September, President Obama released the American Jobs Act. The measure is the latest piece in a string of efforts to put people back into the workforce and money back into the economy. More jobs sounds like a good plan, but as we’ve learned over the past few years, economic recovery isn’t a quick fix.
Rebuilding the economy takes more than just tax cuts and job creation. According to Secretary Tom Vilsack (of the U.S. Department of Agriculture [USDA]), the root of the solution is about rebuilding confidence in the American people. In order to get our economy up and running again, consumers need to feel confident about their spending. This confidence starts in America’s rural communities.
The majority of us live in and around big cities, which are usually considered economic hubs of the country. But, where would people in the city be without food that is produced on farms and in rural communities? Rebuilding the economy is a lot like constructing a house: you’ve got to start by making a strong foundation, and our economy’s foundation is made up of rural communities. These small business folks, farmers and ranchers are the ones providing essential goods and services to the rest of the country, like produce and wood products. However, these small towns took a hit in the economic downturn and continue to struggle. Addressing basic needs will strengthen these local economies. People in these communities need better access to career and educational opportunities, affordable healthcare, broadband internet and other infrastructure elements. Thankfully, the government has started to recognize these needs. Secretary Vilsack says that progress is being made in the agriculture industry.
Despite economic struggles, things appear to be looking brighter for rural America. For example, President Obama has taken significant steps towards supporting rural communities. He signed an Executive Order to establish the first White House Rural Council earlier this year. On behalf of the White House Rural Council, USDA Rural Development is holding a series of roundtable discussions to hear concerns from local business leaders in rural economies. USDA then plans to work with these local leaders to figure out the best loan and grant programs to help small businesses get the help they need. We now have local leaders collaborating with government agencies to help create jobs and build a greener economy. Now that sounds like a confidence-building plan to me.