Twenty business leaders from Mexico, Missouri, joined me at the Mid America Brick plant recently for the first White House Business Council Roundtable meeting in Missouri. President Obama asked me, along with other senior Administration officials, to facilitate a discussion to seek their input on ways the federal government can improve economic conditions and help them create jobs.
When you think of “bricks and mortar” for cementing economic development, there is no better place than the heartland of America at a brick plant for a setting. Mexico, Missouri, was once known as the brick capital of the world, but its biggest factory shut down in 2002. An energetic entrepreneur, Frank Cordie, CEO of Mid America Brick, is bringing it back to life. Mr. Cordie graciously hosted and assisted with inviting key business leaders from the region. His company is using USDA funding, as well as other financing, to restore this icon of the local business community, which at one time was the main employer in this rural town. A tour of the plant made me believe he is well on the way to success. I have never found a more committed group of leaders to their community.
This roundtable was one of many the Obama administration is holding to get feedback on ways we can help businesses expand, create jobs and improve the economic base in their area. The goal was to hear what the Federal government should do more of -- and what we need to do less of – to help them jumpstart the economy. We discussed what resources the government needs to provide, and how we sometimes need just to get out of the way.
The business leaders provided some very candid comments. It was a great opportunity to learn from them about what was working, and hear about some of the barriers they face in running their businesses. We discussed challenges with access to capital and the importance of USDA financing, regulatory barriers, excessive red tape, the need to better prepare for our energy future, and how the tax structure affects small business.
President Obama asked me not just to get feedback, but to make sure his staff at the White House are fully apprised of the concerns and ideas that were raised in these meetings. I am sending a comprehensive report to the White House so we can use what we learned to continue to grow the economy, and put Americans back to work, and win the future.
As President Obama said in the State of the Union address, we want to out-innovate, out-educate, and out build our competitors in order to sustain our leadership and secure prosperity for all Americans. Drawing on the insights of these business leaders in rural Missouri, we will do just that.