Local officials forge D.C. connections

From the Columbia Daily Herald – Tim Hodge

While President Barack Obama wrapped up his Nashville visit, Maury County Chamber and Economic Alliance officials were returning from the Commander-in-Chief’s home base.

The MCCEA took a delegation of 20 people — consisting of local elected officials, MCCEA staff, board members, business investors and employers — on a trip in Washington, D.C., last week.

Officials met with presidential policy advisers from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Economic Council. The Affordable Care Act, transportation, infrastructure, workforce development and education were discussed during two-hour, roundtable talks held in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building near the White House.

They were honestly looking for solid feedback, at the local level, of how the polices that they are creating are affecting local communities and businesses.Wil Evans, MCCEA president

“They were very open to our input and really looking for ways to enhance things that they are doing.” Wil Evans, MCCEA president, said Thursday.

The White House has been reaching out to local communities across the country in a similar fashion, and the Maury County delegation was the only organization in the state to be invited, Evans said. 

“The diversity of the delegation provided an opportunity for sharing of regional and local challenges and concerns with staffers for their understanding and consideration in the development of regulations,” Dr. Janet Smith, Columbia State Community College president, said in a statement.

The trip created an opportunity for officials to connect with federal policy makers on issues that eventually trickle down to the local level, Jan McKeel Executive Director, South Central Tennessee Workforce Alliance executive director, said in a statement.

“Not only were we able to establish relationships and learn about new initiatives and funding priorities, we were asked to provide feedback and comments,” McKeel wrote.

Businesses now have a direct connection to White House officials, many of whom have already used the relationship to follow up on discussion topics, Evans said.

Those connections can also be used to spotlight Maury County on the national stage, he added.

“To be able to go up and put our name on the map with the White House and their staff … I think is a huge advantage,” Evans said. “When you plant seeds like this, you never really know what is going to come out of this, but it’s usually something positive down the road.”