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Opinion Editorial-Union Leader (New Hampshire)-"Federal investment is helping the North Country economy"

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank and Department of Agricuture Secretary Tom Vilsack
Opinion Editorial, The Union Leader (New Hampshire)
"Federal investment is helping the North Country economy"

We are making federal investments in New Hampshire to create rural jobs.

A key reason that America’s economy is so resilient is that we have pockets of unique industrial strengths in specific regions across our country. These strengths are built over time as local businesses, farms, nonprofits, colleges and other institutions work together and learn from each other.

When a network of these groups starts to drive the region’s economy, it’s often called a “cluster.” Clusters are important because they help foster new ideas and best practices in business, they strengthen U.S. competitiveness, and they create more good-paying local jobs.

In several counties across New Hampshire’s North Country, and connecting into Vermont and Maine, clusters have taken root in two industries: local foods and wood products. That’s why we were pleased to announce a few days ago that our two departments awarded more than $700,000 to support the Northern Tier Farm and Forest Jobs Accelerator.

This award will boost the momentum toward job growth in these clusters. Importantly, this effort will be led by a powerful network of partners: the Northern Forest Center, White Mountains Community College, the Northern Community Investment Corporation, Sustainable Forest Futures, and the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund.

Together, they will equip businesses and producers with the tools they need to grow and succeed. Specifically, they aim to reduce energy costs for local businesses, add value to production processes, market more local products, expand high-speed Internet access to rural areas, and train more entrepreneurs and workers.

This financial support for the Northern Tier region is part of a larger group of 13 rural cluster awards that the Obama administration announced last week.

Why are we taking this unique approach to economic development and creating jobs?

First and foremost, we know that one size doesn’t fit all. Places like New Hampshire offer distinct resources and assets, and we need to build on the local expertise that already exists. It makes sense to give greater momentum to regional clusters that are growing from the bottom up.

It’s also important that the leaders in these 13 winning regions will be in charge of guiding the implementation of the plans that they themselves developed. And, in addition to the funding we just provided, about a dozen federal agencies will act as technical assistance partners that stand ready to help every step of the way.

And, of course, we know that small investments can go a long way, especially in rural towns and communities—such as those in the North Country. The fact is, we can’t wait to take low-cost actions that have the potential to make a big impact. In other words, we must do everything possible—right now—to make sure that everyone who wants a job can find a job, no matter where they live.

The president, both of us, and everyone in the Obama administration know that when local communities are getting stronger, our entire nation is getting stronger.

Our commitment is that we will continue to work with Congress to take smart, targeted steps that speed up America’s economic growth.

For example, we’ll continue to push for middle-class tax cuts to prevent income taxes from rising for 98 percent of American families and 97 percent of small businesses. Also, we need to stop providing tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas and to start providing tax relief to those that bring jobs back home.

The Northern Tier Farm and Forest Jobs Accelerator is just one small example of how we can help create good, home-grown jobs. Let’s continue doing everything we can to strengthen economic security for working families across New Hampshire and throughout the U.S.