Nearly six months into a statewide job tour, Sen. Kay Hagan will bring business, education, and development officials together in a summit today.
Today’s summit will provide a forum for leaders in the areas of economic development, education, and business to work toward bringing jobs to North Carolina, Hagan said in telephone interview with The Laurinburg Exchange.
Hagan’s “Back to Work” jobs tour began in January when the senator toured Service Thread in Laurinburg. The tour began in Laurinburg as Scotland County at the time had the highest unemployment rate in the state. As of May, with a 16.9 percent unemployment rate, it still does.
The event will be held at the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center to bring a particular focus to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.
“At this job summit, the individuals that are attending include an individual who owns an engineering company, then we have a lot of folks whose job every day is bringing jobs to North Carolina,” Hagan said Thursday. “So many of the jobs that are available and the jobs of the future are tied to STEM programs, so I think it’s going to be an excellent discussion.”
Although Scotland County Economic Development Director Greg Icard will not be attending due to prior commitments, he expressed a hope that the summit can generate new solutions to the state’s shortage of jobs.
“It’s always a good thing when people get together to try to come to solutions for issues we have in reference to unemployment, not only in this county but in the state,” said Icard. “Hopefully some really good ideas will come out of that that can then be implemented to create new jobs.”
After 16 stops on her jobs tour, including Service Thread, small businesses in Boone, and Wake Technical Community College, Hagan did not notice a deficit of available jobs, instead noting a dissociation between the jobs available and the skill sets of local workers.
“At every tour I’ve been on, there definitely have been jobs available, but in some cases there’s a mismatch between the skills necessary to do those jobs and the people who are applying, so that’s why our community colleges in North Carolina are so critical,” Hagan said.
Scheduled to participate in Friday’s summit are Sepi Asefnia, owner of SEPI Engineering, Keith Crisco, state commerce secretary, Lynn Douthett, district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration, Billy Ray Hall, president of the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center, Sam Houston, president and CEO of N.C. STEM Education Center, Scott Ralls, president of the state community college system, Bonnie Renfro, president of the Randolph County Economic Development Corp., and Roger Shackleford, assistant secretary for Workforce Solutions in the department of commerce.
Hagan said that the success of small businesses, the primary impetus for rural development, is contingent upon reliable connections with the rest of the world.
“I think small business is certainly the job creator; about 98 percent of the new jobs created throughout North Carolina are through small businesses,” said Hagan. “One area that we’ve got to be sure of is the connectivity - for any small business to do business in North Carolina today, high speed fiber optic cable is almost a necessity. I want to be sure that we can connect all of our rural areas with high speed Internet - Billy Ray Hall, that’s a big focus of his.”
The failure of the Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act to pass through the Senate last week came as something of a disappointment to the Senator, as it was blocked by a three-vote margin. The act would have given a 10 percent tax credit to companies on increased salaries and wages paid in 2012.
Other bills on the table include an “insourcing” bill, which would end deductions that companies can take for moving abroad and give a 20 percent tax credit to companies who move operations to the U.S.
“I think everybody’s aware of the number of jobs we have lost that have been shipped overseas,” Hagan said. “It’s certainly time now to take steps to help companies to bring operations home.”