Ensuring Alaska's unique needs are understood by the Lower 48, today U.S. Sen. Mark Begich participated in a Senate panel on job creation in Rural America. In the discussion Begich stressed the challenges facing Rural Alaska and how we can improve job creation efforts by supporting small businesses, investing in infrastructure, improving broadband connectivity and revising dysfunctional federal policies such as the No Child Left Behind Act.
"Rural Alaskans face a list of challenges relating to the economy, their geography and the heightened cost of doing business," Begich said. "There is no question, the federal government can serve rural Alaska communities more efficiently and there should be a focused effort to support small businesses and foster job creation. I welcomed today's discussion and hope it helps move us closer to this goal."
Bristol Bay Native Association CEO Ralph Andersen represented rural Alaska and Alaska Natives at the invitation of Sen. Begich. The Rural Summit brought together over 100 rural leaders, local elected officials, non-profit directors and economic development experts to discuss job creation efforts.
"I am glad senators are addressing the concerns of Alaksa Natives and rural Alaskans who face serious challenges in coming years," Andersen said. "We need to improve our approach to creating stable economies in our communities and villages. I thank Sen. Begich for bringing constructive ideas."
Sen. Begich's delivered comments stressing the inefficiencies and difficulties in the distribution of federal grants to rural communities. To make his point he referenced the Department of Transportation's new National Infrastructure Innovation and Finance Fund, a $4 billion bank requested by the President to fund transportation and infrastructure projects. Sen. Begich urged the creation of a rural carve out within the fund which would allow rural communities to compete for funding.
"A lot of rural communities can't compete... Are you going to take a small village like Kwethluk in Alaska and compete against Los Angeles? Because we lose. Because rural communities cannot compete on that level," Begich said.