In late March, a small group of national and international rural policy leaders met in Washington to discuss what is working best in America to build rural economies. The participants represented agencies charged with rural development including some from beyond U.S. borders. Of the 15 participants, only John Molinaro, president and CEO of APEG, currently works in a rural region.
Molinaro has earned a seat at the table with his deep understanding of rural issues. The meeting was to address the aging workforce which will hit rural economies hard over the next years.
“Our UpSkill Your Workforce training program addresses one of the thorniest problems in rural development. Most rural areas have more people retiring over the next 15 years than graduating from high school so we cannot meet all our workforce needs by training new workers,” Molinaro said. “UpSkill helps employers fill critical positions by increasing the skills of current employees. It’s a very cost-effective strategy for addressing a problem that threatens the economy of just about every rural area.”
Molinaro’s input and the recommendations of the group will be shared with a much larger audience.
“In May, 400 delegates from 34 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries will meet in Memphis to discuss rural development,” said Molinaro. “The Memphis event will showcase what is working best in rural America.”
APEG is also working with other strategies discussed at the meeting.
“The ‘Wealth Creation Approach to Community Development’ is one of the most promising models for advancing rural economies,” said Molinaro. “APEG’s Forest to Furniture program uses this approach to build stronger supply chains and link our furniture and forest products’ industries to markets.”
The result is more of the value coming back to the rurally-located companies and workers. We use the Manufacturing Extension Partnership to tie all this together and keep the costs down, and that’s also unique and a great model for other rural areas, explained Molinaro.
Others attending the White House planning meeting were representatives from: the White House Rural Council, Domestic Policy Council, federal agencies, Canadian government, OECD and other policy organizations.