The first of five "Made in Rural America" regional forums was held June 4 in Washington County (Canonsburg), Pa. Hosted by the Appalachian Regional Commission, the regional forum provided a platform for local, state and federal resources to showcase the roles exports play in helping rural businesses access new opportunities and ensure long-term sustainable growth.Photo by Arthur Scott Butler County, Pa. Commissioner William McCarrier moderates a discussion featuring (seated, l-r)) Lew Villotti , director of planning and development at the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, and Beaver County, Pa. Commissioner Joe Spanik .
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, chair of the White House Rural Council, spoke to the group about the important role rural America plays in the nation's success and the incredible potential ahead for rural exports. "One percent of American businesses export to 95 percent of the world economy," said Vilsack. He added that "33,000 family farm operations provide half of our nation's food" to further underscore the importance and potential in America's rural economy.
Doug McKalip, senior policy advisor for Rural Affairs for the White House Domestic Policy Council, was also on hand as a guest speaker. Like Vilsack a native Pennsylvanian McKalip provided a local touch to the forum tying the initiative to the need for the next "Interstate 79," referring to the broader impact of the interstate system on the rural western Pennsylvania economy.
The forum had several panel discussions including an afternoon session led by Pennsylvania county commissioners, William McCarrier of Butler County and Joe Spanik of Beaver County. This panel provided a county level, regional/multi-county and statewide point of view of exporting to emphasize the importance of engaging rural America in the global economy of the 21st century.
Also included on the panel was Amber Hancharick, export trade specialist for the North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission, and Pete O'Neill, director for the Office of International Business Development at the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.
During the forum, the Obama Administration also unveiled a new Web portal for rural businesses considering export opportunities. The website, http://business.usa.gov, allows U.S. businesses to search aggregated business-related information and resources from 24 federal agencies, from starting a business to financing to exporting.
The Administration also unveiled details on the second regional forum to be hosted by the Delta Regional Authority on July 18 in Memphis, Tenn.Hero 1