By PATRICK HALL
The Wilson Post
Sixth District U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Gallatin shared ideas and discussed ways to bring one job to every business in Wilson County to fight unemployment during a meeting with local elected officials on Tuesday.
The meeting was part of Blacks Jobs Task Force, One More Job initiative that she hoped would reduce unemployment through Tennessees 6th Congressional district.
How can we at the federal level partner with you to create one more job in every local business? Black asked.
Lebanon/Wilson County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Sue Vanatta said she hears a need for skilled workers from local businesses. Vanatta said there is a large need for Information Technology, or IT, jobs locally as well as skilled workers in fields such as machinists and welding.
The discussion led into a need for a technical school nearby to help train local workers and be a place for students to receive technical degrees to meet the needs of businesses needing more skilled workers.
Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto said the county is in talks with the Wilson County Board of Education on using the Wilson County Vocational Center on the old Lebanon High School campus as possibly a technical school.
G.C. Hixson, executive director of the Joint Economic & Community Development Board of Wilson County, said the school would be a branch operation instead of a full-time technical school.
It could also be a place for juniors and seniors in high school to come at night, possibly receive course credit and get that training, Hutto said.
Black said she could see a huge benefit from the small technical school, not only for training workers but also for educating students in high school and giving them options for career paths.
She said some have demeaned the value of a technical degree or technical job training compared to a four-year degree from a full-time university. She added that technical jobs pay good money and technical workers are just as important as white-collar workers.
We have somehow made it seem like if thats your skill set, its somehow not valuable, but we need to make them feel important and valued in society, Black said.
Hutto said marketing career paths and promoting technical jobs to high school students will be a great benefit to the local community in helping students decide what field to enter after graduation.
District 22 Wilson County Commissioner Wendell Marlow, who is also a middle school principal, said career education needs to start earlier in middle school.
District 23 Commissioner Bernie Ash said the federal and state governments should create an environment more conducive to small business owners. He said the majority of businesses in Wilson County are mom and pop businesses that are hurting in the current economic climate.
Black said she is encouraging fair, flatter and simpler tax reform to lessen the burden on small businesses. She also said many businesses are concerned about the Affordable Care Act, or the Health Care Law, and how mandates will affect businesses offering health insurance to employees.
The group talked about recruiting jobs to Wilson County and how the federal government could help bring white-collar jobs to the community, but Black said the responsibility to bring those types of jobs rests with the local governments.
She said businesses want to locate in areas that offer better infrastructure, better tax incentives and have an attractive community.
They like to be close to an airport, they like to be close to an interstate and a college in town is important, Black said.
She noted how lucky Wilson County is to have Interstate 40 passing through, pointing out it is a major draw in attracting businesses here. She said local governments have to do the legwork to encourage businesses to locate in Wilson County.
Theyre watching your city council meetings to see if youre getting along, theyre looking at your school board to see if youre moving education forward, Black said.
Black noted she would be taking feedback from all 15 counties she represents to Congress and voicing the concerns shes heard along the way.
Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.