Ross visited Fort Smith Thursday to announce his "Jobs First" initiative. Ross says the plan is a comprehensive job creation and economic development plan.
The first part of Ross' plan is to strengthen public education and improve workforce training. He says he wants every Arkansas student to graduate ready to pursue college or a career so the workforce is well positioned for the jobs of the future.
Ross also wants to cut taxes for working families, small businesses and manufacturers so they can keep and invest more of their own money.
In addition to that, Ross hopes to cut red tape and reduce government regulations on job creators, particularly small businesses. He wants to foster entrepreneurship and innovation in Arkansas' economy, making it easier to start and grow a small business, as well as develop what he calls "work-ready communities" through public and private partnerships to attract good-paying jobs.
News release from Ross campaign:
FORT SMITH, AR - Former small business owner and Democratic nominee for governor, Mike Ross, released his job creation plan for Arkansas on Thursday at the Chaffee Crossing development in Fort Smith. Ross said his 46-page ‘Jobs First’ economic development plan will improve education, cut taxes, reduce government regulations and create more and better-paying jobs. Ross, originally of Prescott who now resides in Little Rock, is a former state senator and U.S. Congressman.
“My comprehensive job creation and economic development plan is called Jobs First, because putting jobs first is exactly what I will do as governor,” said Ross. “By prioritizing education and workforce training, tax cuts, government efficiency and economic development, my job creation plan outlines my positive vision for the future of this great state and will guide my work as your next governor. And, we will do all of this by putting an end to the partisan bickering and start working with one another to put jobs first.”
Ross made the announcement from Chaffee Crossing in Fort Smith, a 7,000-acre economic redevelopment that has created more than a 1,000 jobs for the Fort Smith region. Ross said his job creation plan will support projects like Chaffee Crossing and economic development in towns all over Arkansas.
“The Fort Smith region represents the challenges and opportunities many communities across Arkansas face, and the success story here at Chaffee Crossing gives me hope that Arkansas is on the verge of an economic comeback,” said Ross. “My comprehensive job creation plan will help accelerate the progress here at Chaffee Crossing and in communities all over Arkansas by bringing together all the resources of the state to put jobs first and work toward one important mission: more good-paying jobs.”
In education, Ross has already announced plans to make pre-kindergarten education accessible to every 4-year-old in Arkansas. His job creation plan will also encourage innovation in public education by creating the Innovation Laboratory (InLab) Fund so that educators can try innovative, yet proven learning ideas. He will fully fund the Arkansas School Recognition and Reward Program, a program that rewards schools based on a combined performance and improvement rating. Ross will also reform the program so that it recognizes performance and improvement separately.
Ross’ plan will provide 8th and 11th grade students in Arkansas with a Forecast of Careers in the United States (FOCUS) report to empower them to make better education choices that guide them to high-paying, highly-demanded careers. He will fully fund the Governor’s Distinguished Scholarship so that Arkansas can encourage more of its best and brightest students to remain in Arkansas for their college education. And, Ross will encourage public/private partnerships that prioritize career and technical education and workforce training, so that those Arkansans who didn’t go to or finish college can get the skills they need to succeed.
“I want every Arkansas child to start sooner and finish stronger, with the opportunity to attend quality pre-k and stronger schools that prepare them to graduate ready for college or a career,” said Ross. “We’re going to make college more affordable and we’re going to have a renewed focus on career and technical education and workforce training so we can empower all Arkansans to get the skills, training and education they need to get a good-paying job and provide for their families.”
Also a part of Ross’ job creation plan are previously announced tax cut proposals. He will gradually eliminate the state’s sales and use tax on partial replacements and repairs of manufacturing machinery and equipment so that our job creators can invest more money in modernizing their equipment and growing their businesses. He will also gradually modernize the state’s income tax code in a way that creates lower, fairer taxes for working families and small businesses and saves the average working family in Arkansas $665 a year when fully implemented.
The third part of Ross’ job creation plan is about government efficiency, transparency and accountability. Ross has pledged to create an online central business licensing system to dramatically reduce the time it takes to start a small business in Arkansas. He’ll also require the state to publish all rules and regulations issued by state agencies and boards and commissions in a centralized online location and in a user-friendly format so that Arkansans know why, how and where regulations exist. Finally, Ross said he will establish a bipartisan task force to review all rules and regulations issued by state agencies and boards and commissions that have been in place longer than three years and make recommendations on which rules and regulations to keep, revise or repeal.
“While government can help, it doesn’t have all the answers, and it can’t solve all our problems. Government should help where it can, and it should get out of the way where it can’t,” said Ross. “As a former small business owner, I know that taxes are too high and that overly burdensome government regulations can stifle economic growth. That’s why my plan will cut taxes in a fiscally responsible way and will bring more efficiency, transparency and accountability to government.”
The final piece of Ross’ job creation plan entails several economic development ideas that focus on entrepreneurship, innovation and workforce training. Ross has previously announced his plan to create the Governor’s Cabinet for Economic Development – to be led by Democratic lieutenant governor nominee John Burkhalter – that would help coordinate the state’s job creation efforts. Ross’ plan also calls for fully funding the Governor’s Quick Action Closing Fund, a fund set aside for the state to use to attract more and better-paying jobs to Arkansas.
Ross said he’ll also create the Strengthening Entrepreneurship & Economic Development (SEED) grant program to provide grants to communities, nonprofit organizations, economic development partnerships and community groups to fund initiatives, projects and programs that encourage or support entrepreneurship and/or innovation. Ross also proposed a crowdsourcing campaign called “Engage Arkansas” that would encourage state government agencies to harness the ideas and entrepreneurial talents of Arkansas and give Arkansas’s budding entrepreneurs opportunities to be recognized and rewarded for their skills and talents. The "Engage Arkansas" initiative would essentially create a website where state agencies would regularly solicit solutions or ideas from Arkansans and offer rewards or contracts to those who do.
“Small businesses and entrepreneurs are the backbone to Arkansas’s economy, and I want to have their backs,” said Ross. “My job creation plan will give Arkansas the tools it needs to bring in the major employers, but we will also increase support for our small businesses, emphasize innovation in the private sector and give more opportunities for entrepreneurs to succeed and launch that next big idea right here in Arkansas. My plan will make it easier to start and grow a business in Arkansas, and will empower our state to become a cutting-edge leader in economic development.”
Finally, Ross said he would lead a statewide coordinated effort to encourage and assist communities across Arkansas to attain nationally recognized “Work Ready Community” certifications that prioritize developing an educated, skilled and trained workforce to attract the good-paying jobs from around the country and over the world.
“I know that education and job creation go hand in hand, which is why I want to be the education governor and why my plan is so focused on improving education and workforce training in Arkansas,” said Ross. “The bottom line is this: my job creation plan will strengthen public education and workforce training, cut taxes, reduce government regulations, and position Arkansas to become a national leader in the economic development community – all of which will create more and better-paying jobs, grow the Arkansas economy for everyone and tell the nation that Arkansas is open for business.”