JACKSON — More than 25 Jackson business leaders, including Mayor Harvey Johnson, former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and State Sen. John Horhn, traveled to Washington, D.C., late last week to participate in a White House business leader briefing.
Leaders from the Jackson business community provided feedback to Obama Administration officials on ways to work together to support economic competitiveness, job creation, and innovation in Mississippi. The business leaders brought up issues important to spurring economic growth in Mississippi including access to capital, healthcare reform implementation, workforce development, neighborhood stabilization, infrastructure improvement, higher education affordability, and regulating pay day lenders.
“Business leaders are a critical voice in the policymaking process,” said Bert Kaufman, vice president of Business Forward. “White House officials were more than a little eager to hear directly from Jackson leaders on issues important to the area’s economy and ideas for spurring job growth.”
Senior administration officials who took part in the briefing included Mark Doms, chief economist, Department of Commerce; Matt Erskine, deputy assistant secretary of commerce and COO for the U.S. Economic Development, Department of Commerce; Sol Ross, director of business outreach, Department of Health and Human Services; Christopher Masingill, federal co-chairman, Delta Regional Authority; Brad Cooper, executive director of White House Joining Forces; Sam Kass, assistant White House chef and White House senior policy advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives; and, Ari Matusiak, executive director of the White House Business Council.
Doms gave a macroeconomic overview and discussed all of the economic data that federal policymakers consider, while answering questions from the group about oil prices and unemployment rates. One attendee noted that Mississippi’s high incarceration rate has been a hurdle to economic growth.
One business leader complimented the administration on its creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the President’s appointment of Richard Cordray to direct the new agency.
Ross discussed the details of the Affordable Care Act and how state exchanges, which begin in January of 2014, will not only provide residents with more options for healthcare, but will also become important economic drivers in Mississippi over the next decade.
The group voiced concerns surrounding healthcare reform implementation, but agreed the state exchanges are necessary. Some of the small business owners lamented that high health care have prevented them from hiring on additional employees.
Johnson asked for more information about the Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRC) Nursing Home Transition through Money Follows the Person Grants, 24 states funded to strengthen the ADRCs role in the CMS Money Follows the Person program and support state Medicaid agencies as they transition individuals from nursing homes to community-based care. The mayor discussed the need for this type of extra funding in the Jackson community.
Matusiak and Johnson led a “Partnering for Action” discussion aimed at exploring public/private partnerships, and the opportunities to take action on important state and local issues facing businesses in Jackson. The group noted the American Jobs Act and the administration’s plan for infrastructure development needs to also include the improvement of water and sewage lines, in addition to roads, bridges, railways and broadband.
Participants represented a wide range of industries that make up Jackson’s economy. Executives from the Bell Group, Molpus Woodlands Group, Minority Capital Fund of Mississippi Inc., Lumpkins BBQ, Global Security Systems, Triniry Apparel Group, New York Life Insurance Company and BlackWhite Development were involved.
The event was the 13th meeting in a series of business leader briefings that are taking place at the White House throughout the year. Business Forward and the White House Business Council have partnered to bring more business leaders from all around the country into the policymaking process.