OPINION: Recovery Act creates jobs in the region

Despite millions of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) dollars being used to shore up Mississippi’s budget, ease education funding shortfalls, and update critical infrastructure that improves access to local businesses, this legislation is still receiving undue criticism.
On an almost daily basis, Recovery Act funds are being used by infrastructure projects, school districts, and businesses in north Mississippi to help stimulate local economies and put people back to work.
As you may recall, the Recovery Act consists of three parts: tax cuts, aid to help stabilize budgets for states and cities, and infrastructure investment. The legislation is estimated to directly impact 30,000 jobs statewide, including nearly 9,000 jobs in the 1st District. The Recovery Act also enacted the largest middle-class tax cuts in American history, benefiting 95 percent of Americans and an estimated one million Mississippi taxpayers. In addition, it provided hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for education in Mississippi, including $350 million for the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, which prevented massive layoffs of teachers and other cutbacks in education over the past year.
Examples of Recovery Act infrastructure projects already underway include the overlaying of U.S. Highway 78 from Lee County to the Alabama state line, the overlaying of U.S. Highway 45 between Lee County and West Point, upgrades to the Highway 78-Highway 45 intersection at McCullough Boulevard, and improvements to Eason Boulevard, part of Tupelo’s major thoroughfare program.
So where are the jobs? According to recent announcements – like last week’s of more than $130 million in Recovery Act funding to create an estimated 500 new jobs in Pontotoc and Itawamba Counties – many Recovery Act jobs are right here, in North Mississippi.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Energy announced significant Recovery Act funding for two companies to construct ethanol-producing facilities. Bluefire LLC has been awarded more than $81 million to construct a facility in Fulton that will produce ethanol fuel from woody biomass, mill residue, and sorted municipal solid waste. Enerkem Corporation will receive $50 million in funding for the construction and operation of its waste-to-biofuels facility to be located in Pontotoc. Together, this funding represents more than 20 percent of the total amount awarded nationwide for biorefinery projects.
Bluefire’s Fulton plant will have the capacity to produce 19 million gallons of ethanol per year, and will directly employ an estimated 70 people in high-paying jobs. The new facility will also create and support an estimated 300 jobs in the forestry industry, which has suffered greatly from the economic downturn.
Enerkem’s 300 ton-per-day biorefinery in Pontotoc will produce 10 million gallons of ethanol annually, as well as green chemicals, from sorted municipal solid waste and wood residues and will reduce overcrowding in our landfills. The project is expected to create 130 jobs.
Since the announcement of both projects earlier this year, the companies have made substantial progress in the permitting process.
These two new facilities will promote the use of alternative energy sources, help reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, and – most importantly – help put North Mississippians back to work. The projects are yet another example of how the Recovery Act is working to get our local and national economies back on track. On top of enacting one of the largest middle-class tax cuts in American history, the legislation has created and saved jobs, eased state and local budget shortfalls, and stimulated economic development. Most importantly, it helped slow down what has been the worst economic freefall since the Great Depression. We’re still not out of the woods, but things are getting better, and they’re certainly not as bad as they could have been.
Jobs continue to be the number one issue facing North Mississippi. I have not lost sight of that fact, and I will continue to do everything I can as Congressman to support policies and encourage investments in our region that will promote job creation for the hard-working people of North Mississippi.
Please continue to keep me informed about your opinions and concerns by phone at (202) 225-4306 or by visiting my website at www.childers.house.gov.
Travis W. Childers, a Democrat from Booneville, represents the 1st Congressional District. his Contact him at 337A East Main Street, Tupelo, MS 38804, or call p. (662) 841-8808.

Travis Childers