by Amy Elsbree
A group of city officials attending NLC's Congressional City Conference visited the White House last week for a dialogue with senior White House officials. They discussed the ways cities and the federal government can partner to create an environment that will help foster local economic growth and support returning veterans and military families.
"Thanks to the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs for facilitating such a valuable forum for open discussion with White House policy-makers," said NLC President Ted Ellis, mayor of Bluffton, Ind. "President Obama and his team have a firm understanding of the needs of cities."
As part of the briefing, the officials exchanged ideas with city leaders on strategies to develop regional economies that leverage local skill sets and the need for greater infrastructure investment.
Jason Furman, principal deputy director, National Economic Council, stressed the need to invest in America while also taking responsible steps to reduce the deficit. Furman cited the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and affordable housing programs as two key areas that the President will be protecting against any cuts in the 2013 federal budget, given their importance to strengthening local economies.
Greg Nelson, deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, and Don Graves, executive director of the White House Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, shared the ways the White House is reaching out to business, labor and academia to explore ideas for job creation, such as streamlining regulations and access to capital.
Karen Mills, administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA), emphasized the need for all levels of government to support small businesses, which are key to job creation and the recovery of Main Street economies. Mills reviewed the four ways that the SBA can assist small business, including access to capital, providing counseling, federal contracting and disaster loans. She emphasized that the SBA is focused on the gap in low-dollar loans in underserved communities.
The city officials received a briefing on First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden's Joining Forces Initiative and the need for cross-sector, community-based support including education, training and health care for returning veterans and military families. Brad Cooper, executive director, Joining Forces, shared that planning is underway to develop a model program that cities could launch in their communities.
Both city officials and the Administration acknowledged that chief among the challenges for the nation and for cities and towns is to develop private business capacity for hiring veterans.