May 25, 2018
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Presque Isle readies for forum on jobs, economy

By Jen Lynds, BDN Staff

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Everyone has an opinion on the economy and what can be done to make it better.

On Tuesday residents in Aroostook County will get a chance to make their own suggestions on the matter and have their voices heard on a national level.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development has joined forces with the USDA Farm Service Agency and Northern Maine Community College to host the USDA Community Forum on Jobs and Economic Growth. The forum will begin at 10 a.m. at NMCC in the Edmunds Conference Room.

Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel calls the forum “a nationwide sounding board for change.”

“The idea for this was generated in Washington, D.C.,” she said recently. “In December, President Barack Obama held a White House jobs forum. An idea generated during that summit was that it would be a good idea for agencies in all of the states to do similar forums.”

During the forum, participants will discuss steps that can be taken to grow the economy and put Maine and Aroostook County residents back to work. A number of speakers will make presentations during the event, including Manuel, Farm Service Agency Executive Director Donovan Todd III and NMCC President Tim Crowley.

Guest speakers also will include Maine Public Service Co. President and Chief Executive Officer Brent Boyles, Northern Maine Development Commission Executive Director Robert Clark, and Aurora Mills owner Matthew Williams of Linneus.

“We are going to hear from speakers who have a wide variety of experience in this area,” said Manuel. “We are really going to focus on accelerating job growth in this area.”

Manuel stressed that participants do not have to show up in Presque Isle to participate. Videoconference space will be set up at Madawaska High School and Houlton Higher Education Center for participants in those areas.

Manuel said the speakers would focus on expressing ways to rejuvenate and promote local businesses, create jobs and support job growth among small businesses. Those in attendance will be asked how they feel about the economy and what they think can be done to prepare workers for jobs in the 21st century.

Ideas and opinions generated during the forum won’t just stay in The County, Manuel stressed.

“We will be taking notes during this event,” she said. “That information will be passed on to Tom Vilsak, [secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture]. He will turn what we come up with over to the White House team.

“This is going to be a very important event,” said Manuel. “A lot of exciting ideas are going to be generated during this forum.”

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