James Lee Witt: Develop More Jobs Through Public-Private Partnerships

by Mark Carter  on Thursday, Jun. 12, 2014 3:31 pm  

James Lee Witt (Photo by Mike Pirnique)

James Lee Witt, the former head of the Federal Emergency Management Association under former President Bill Clinton and the Democratic nominee for the open 4th District congressional seat, on Thursday released a jobs plan focused on creating public-private training partnerships. 

Specifically, Witt wants the district's 12 colleges and universities to partner with local businesses for job development and training that he believes will result in economic development. 

"Job creation and training in Arkansas' 4th Congressional District must include further development of public-private partnerships between our educational institutions and businesses," Witt said in the official release announcing the plan. "These partnerships will focus on creating and retaining a competitive workforce with the skill level to sustain high quality, Arkansas jobs."

Witt said his plan will focus on the resources and needs specific to the 4th District, and provide local students with professional and technical skills based on local industry needs.

"We can't have a one-size-fits-all approach," Witt said. "Using a regional focus for economic growth will allow us to maximize our resources and work in a collaborative manner to ensure successful programs and initiatives are in place."

Witt is facing Bruce Westerman of Hot Springs, the Republican majority leader in the Arkansas House, and Libertarian Ken Hamilton of El Dorado in the general election.

On Thursday, Westerman campaign manager Kenneth Ryan James said any jobs plan for the district should include less involvement from the federal government.

"The jobs plan hardworking Arkansas families deserve is fewer hassles from the federal government and more freedom for the private sector to grow good-paying jobs so Arkansas workers can establish long-term careers," he said.

"Any legitimate plan must include the repeal of top-down regulations like Obamacare and Dodd-Frank, which are unfairly stifling small businesses through higher taxes, burdensome regulations, and fewer community banks able to lend money to those who want to invest in our neighborhoods," he said.

The candidates are seeking to take over the seat now held by Republican Tom Cotton, who is running against incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor. Witt was unopposed in the May Democratic primary. Westerman defeated Tommy Moll of Hot Springs

Witt served as FEMA director from 1993 to 2001, the entire run of the Clinton administration. After Clinton left office, Witt formed his own private emergency management services firm, Witt Associates, that topped $40 million in revenue in 2010. The firm was based in Washington, D.C. and maintained several regional offices including one in the River Market District of Little Rock.

In December 2012, Witt Associates merged with O'Brien's Response Management to form Witt O'Brien's, for which Witt serves as executive chairman. The Little Rock office remains open.

Witt, 70, a former Yell County judge who lives on his 300-acre family homestead at Mount George just outside of Dardanelle, cited a University of Arkansas at Hope Community College program that trains students for specific jobs at local industries.

"More of these programs should be explored and implemented throughout the district," he said.



Please read our comments policy before commenting.