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  • Trent Ashby

Capitol Update: Boosting the Rural Economy

With the holidays officially behind us, I’d like to wish you all a Happy New Year! As we turn the page on one year and begin another, we’re afforded a unique opportunity for new beginnings. Whether you commit to a New Year’s resolution or not, it’s my hope that we all take some time to consider ways to improve. In looking ahead to 2024, let’s make a renewed effort to enrich our own lives and the lives of others by lifting each other up and supporting one another in fulfilling our goals for the coming year.

With that, here’s an update from your State Capitol . . .

Capitol Update

As we take stock of the previous year, one of our state’s greatest blessings has been the unrivaled strength of Texas’ economy. Recently released employment data shows Texas leading the nation in annual job growth, adding more jobs over the last 12 months than any state in the nation. Texas also set three new record highs for total jobs, the number of Texans working, and the size of the Texas labor force. Importantly, Texans from every corner of the state—from downtown Houston to rural Deep East Texas—are reaping the benefits of a booming economy, and I’d like to highlight some of the policies enacted over the last year that will help ensure future prosperity for rural Texas.

You might be interested to know that rural small businesses make up nearly a quarter of all businesses in the State of Texas, contributing to more than 20 percent of the state’s economic output. With that in mind, I was proud to work with my colleagues to prioritize rural economic development through strategic investments in higher education, career pathways, and workforce development.

One of the hallmark bills of the 88th session was House Bill 8, which provides for a transformational change in community colleges by moving towards an industry-led, outcomes-based funding model to promote greater alignment between local community colleges and regional workforce demands. Through these strategic partnerships, Texas students will be guided into high-demand careers with good pay and upward mobility, and employers will have access to a pipeline of skilled workers.

As a compliment to House Bill 8, the Legislature passed House Bill 2209, which expands options for rural school districts to provide college and career pathways that lead to post-secondary success and earning family-sustaining wages in their hometown.

A highly-skilled workforce is the foundation for our state’s success and more importantly, the foundation for the state’s future to attract businesses and industry. Given this importance, the Legislature passed House Bill 1755, which created the Lone Star Workforce of the Future Fund and grant program to fund workforce training programs. Not only does this legislation help fill the demand for a skilled workforce, but it also increases our state’s competitiveness in recruiting businesses to Texas.

The mobile office is on the road again and our District Director will look forward to seeing you on the following dates, in the following locations: January 3 at the San Augustine County Courthouse from 9 – 11:00 am; January 10 at the Polk County Commissioners Courtroom in Livingston from 9 – 11:00 am, or the Tyler County Courthouse in Woodville from 1:30 – 3:30 pm; January 17 at the Houston County Courthouse Annex in Crockett from 9 – 11 am, or at the Trinity County Courthouse in Groveton from 1:30 – 3:30 pm.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if we can help you in any way. My district office may be reached at (936) 634-2762. Additionally, I welcome you to follow along on my Official Facebook Page, where I will post regular updates on what’s happening in your State Capitol and share information that could be useful to you and your family:

Capitol Update: Flood Mitigation Funding and Christmas Blessings

Capitol Update: Wins for Rural Texas

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