U.S. Sen. Bob Corker visited Columbia Thursday to lead a round table discussion that focused on the effects of government spending, debt and over-regulation on the local economy and job creation.
Harvey Church, president of First Farmers & Merchants Bank, introduced the Tennessee Republican to a room of about 25 local representatives from manufacturing, real estate, education and healthcare companies at the bank who were invited to share their perspectives on recent legislation and voice their concerns on policies that affect their respective industries. State Representative Sheila Butt was also in attendance.
Rob Pearson with GrafTech International said his company has invested $30 million in its Columbia facility and wants to expand, but skilled workers are hard to find.
“We need help on training… We need to know what help we can get from the state and the federal government to help manufacturing in the U.S., in terms of capital investment, tax incentive and training,” he said.
Corker said to peel back regulations would mean better incentives for businesses to keep operations in the U.S.. He emphasized the importance of bettering education for skilled trades workers need to fill jobs at expanding companies.
“That really is, in my opinion, something that needs to be done at the state and local level,” he said.
Six republicans and six democrats have been appointed to a congressional super committee to find a plan for an additional $1 trillion to the trillion dollars already identified in federal budget savings by Thanksgiving. Corker said he has joined a group of legislators making an effort to save another trillion, to try and reduce the federal deficit by a total of $3 trillion.
“That’s what it would take over a 10-year period to actually stabilize where we are debt-wise so we’re not adding, as a percentage of our gross domestic product, more debt than we already have,” Corker said.
Corker said the most significant event between today and election time that relates to local business is the work the Super Committee is doing on the deficit.
In mentioning his membership on the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee and the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the senator said his roles on the committees have helped him connect with local businesses and address issues with a better perspective.
“It’s been a place where I’ve really been able to be very active and certainly be in touch with the business community, and the Energy committee has been the same way for me,” he said.
Sen. Corker also made a stop in his home city of Chattanooga Thursday morning to hold a similar conversation regarding energy rates and their effect on local economic development.