St. Louis Hosts First Rural Jobs Forum

USDA Rural Development brainstorming event draws 175 participants.

Published on: Jan 19, 2010
The Missouri, Illinois and Iowa offices of USDA Rural Development and the Farm Service Agency joined forces to conduct a Jobs and Economic Development Forum Jan. 9 in St. Louis.  The forum was incorporated into the Missouri Governor's Conference on Agriculture, hosted by the Missouri State Department of Agriculture.

Missouri State Rural Development Director Janie Dunning welcomed the 175 people in attendance to the forum and introduced a video with remarks from USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan.

Bill Menner, Iowa Rural Development director, introduced five panelists who made presentations on jobs related issues: 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, market manager for National City Bank; and Sharon Gulick, director University of Missouri Extension's Community Economic and Entrepreneurial Development Program.

Illinois Rural Development Director Colleen Callahan moderated a discussion with the audience, speakers, panelists and state directors. USDA Rural Development leaders heard a wide array of comments from representatives of local government, non-profit and community organizations, organized labor, small business, education, and agriculture, as well as economic, business and workforce development.  Among those offering input were Missouri Senator Frank Barnitz, Missouri State Representative Brian Munzlinger, several Missouri agribusiness owners and a Missouri 4-H state officer.

Ideas presented at the forum included:

  • Promote the spirit of entrepreneurship through incentives, technical assistance and capital
  • More collaboration on a regional basis to attract businesses
  • Streamline government regulations and red tape for start up businesses plus improvements in tax code
  • Encourage more lenders to utilize government guarantees or other programs to help new or expanding businesses
  • More funding for jobs training and summer youth programs
  • Expand high-speed rural broadband access.

A summary report from the forum will be submitted to USDA Secretary Vilsack and President Obama.

If you would like to share an idea or comment, post it on the USDA Blog Web site at, or submit it via e-mail to