MULLINS, S.C. – Congressman Tom Rice and his staff were in Mullins to meet with more than 30 constituents from the 7th Congressional district Friday in a mini forum inside the Anderson Brothers Bank Conference Center.

“This was kind of a central place for people from all over the district to meet and talk about how we can work together to solve problems,” Rice said. “The biggest issue for our district is economic development, jobs and infrastructure and we had people here today that are experts in every one of those fields to try and help us push forward.”

Joining Rice to provide overviews were Jeff Mckay director of the North Eastern Strategic Alliance, Greg Davis of the S.C. Department of Commerce and Bill Taylor with the Municipal Association of South Carolina.

McKay shared information regarding the organizations collaborative and cooperative efforts to recruit jobs and capital investment. Representing nine counties, McKay said NESA plays a role in marketing sites and partnering for certification. “We got a diverse manufacturing base,” he said. McKay added more attention is being paid to agribusiness and its an opportunity for the area to be the state’s poster child on how good business could be.

District 57 Rep. Wayne George has been a proponent of agribusiness since being on the campaign trail last year. “We have to get good at something,” George said. “I think agribusiness can bring all levels of jobs.”

Davis shared information on his role with the small business regulatory review and working with commerce in developing small businesses.

“Ninety-seven percent of all business in South Carolina is small business,” he said. “We make sure work is given to our small business when larger companies come in.”

Davis said to help share information and resources the website was created.

Taylor discussed the municipal association’s funding opportunities along with training programs and technical assistance.

Rice said the district has to get in the game and try to make changes in order to compete.

“We’re trying everything we can to make a connection between the federal government and your job,” Rice said. “And we’re going to try and make your job easier.”

Rice said he is already working on two of the biggest infrastructure projects in the region in I-73 and the Georgetown port.

Overall, local officials welcomed the opportunity to work collectively as a district.

George said the area has a lot of needs and senses leadership is working together. “I think it’s more than about just creating jobs but making sure we have a skilled workforce,” George said. “I represent mostly a rural area and jobs are important along with creating a brighter economic area.”

Marion Mayor Bobby Davis said the forum was productive. “It gave me an opportunity to listen to some possibilities and means of getting some funding to help us with some of the projects that we’re planning for the city of Marion,” Davis said. “It lets us know he’s available and that he seems to care about what is happening in our municipalities and I certainly applaud him for that.”

Mullins Mayor William McMillan said he was thrilled to have a large turnout in his town. “People throughout the Pee Dee came to hear Congressman Rice give a very progressive, positive and optimist message about our future,” McMillan said. “I’m very proud on behalf of council and the citizens of Mullins to be the host town and it speaks to our growth and also Congressman Rice’s belief in being in each and every small town and giving us all an equal chance to have a voice.”