With the possibility of $1.2 trillion in across-the-board sequestration federal budget cuts going into effect on Friday, MPower Economic Development has contacted some of the major players in work force assistance programs in the McAlester area.
MPower Executive Director Shari Cooper told about the preliminary steps that’s been taken to offer employment assistance if needed. She outlined the action during MPower’s February meeting, held Monday morning in a conference room at the Holiday Inn Express.
Cooper said she wanted the McAlester area to be ready to help any employees who may lose a job because of the budget cuts — much the way several groups and organizations pulled together to help displaced workers when the Simonton Windows plant in McAlester shut its doors.
“We’re just trying to work as a team with all of our work force partners to prepare for this,” Cooper said after the meeting.
Sequestration refers to $1.2 trillion in automatic across-the-board spending cuts for both defense and non-defense spending, set to go into effect March 1 if Congress and the president do not act together to stop them.
“We want to make sure employees know what resources are available,” she said.
Cooper noted during the meeting that no one knows for sure what may transpire before March 1, but she wanted to be ready if the sequestration cuts go into effect as planned.
Cooper said she participated in a conference call last week that included Dr. Janet Wansick, dean of the McAlester Campus of Eastern Oklahoma State College; Cody Cox, district manager of Workforce Oklahoma, Jane Buffington and Rhonda Mize, who work with career placement through the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma; Karen Davidson, director of the Southeast Workforce Investment Board, and new MPower Board member Steve Woodham, of Candlewood Suites.
“We’re trying to be proactive,” Cooper said. She said the groups want to prepare for the worst-case scenario in case the sequestration cuts do happen.
While the sequestration cuts concern the federal budget, it will also have an impact at the state level if it goes into effect March 1, since the states all receive federal funds.
Sequestration is expected to affect defense, education, law enforcement, health and environmental funding, to name only a few areas where the impact could be felt.
Also during the meeting, MPower President Ben Capers, of the Holiday Inn Express, told of a recent meeting which included the McAlester Chamber of Commerce, McAlester Main Street, Pride in McAlester and MPower and McAlester City Manager Pete Stasiak. Capers said the meeting had been called by the Chamber.
“We talked about ways we could assist each other and help the city,” Capers said, calling the meeting an informal gathering.
“The idea was we would try to meet periodically to help each other,” he said.
In other action at the meeting, MPower Business Retention and Expansion Manager Shane Cameron gave an update on research he’s conducting for the Council for Community and Economic Research, previously known as the American Chamber of Commerce Research Association.
Cameron said he’s been collecting information on he prices of goods and services in McAlester. He said he’s already checked on the prices of items ranging from steak and eggs to tissue and tennis balls in the city.
He’s also checked with doctors and veterinarians and looked into how much it costs to finance a house in McAlester, Cameron said.
The data will be sent to Council for Community and Economic Research as part of a national survey to determine the cost of living in various cities across the nation. Some of the previous data has lead researchers to conclude McAlester is one of the best cities in the nation in which to live, as far as the cost of living is concerned.
“It will give an idea of how we rank with other cities,” Cooper said.
“It will be a great marketing plan.”
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