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story.lead_photo.caption Arkansas Sen. John Boozman, R.-Ark., right, and Rep. Bruce Westerman, R.-Ark., center, tour the warehouse of Eagle Distributing of Texarkana, the local Anheuser-Busch distributor. The local tour was led by Tim O'Neal, president. It was part of a multi-day, multi-city tour to touch base with Arkansas small-business operators and get first-hand feedback about their concerns and needs. Photo by Junius Stone / Texarkana Gazette.

Arkansas Sen. John Boozman, R.-Ark., and Rep. Bruce Westerman, R.-Ark., toured Eagle Distributing of Texarkana, the exclusive Anheuser-Busch distributor, on Wednesday to find out how they are doing and what they need from Washington, D.C.

Boozman notes that Arkansas is experiencing the effects of historically low unemployment rate, which currently stands at 3.7 percent. Overall in the United States, the unemployment rate is at 4.1 percent, which is providing an interesting challenge for businesses wanting to expand during the positive economic activity.

"I hear from employers who are ready to take their business to the next level, but are having the hardest time finding qualified workers," he said. "That is much better than businesses having to shed workers and positions, but this is holding many small businesses back. We need to find a way to train workers in technical skills and make them more Web-savvy."

Boozman especially noted that local colleges, especially community colleges, are rising to the occasion to help fill in that gap.

Westerman said that one way he sees supplying workers for this growing need is directing attention to those on public assistance rolls.

"We need to get able-bodied people into the workforce where they are needed," he said. "We want to attach work requirements to public assistance programs and get people moving from welfare to work."

By getting them to work and meeting their requirement, he made it clear that this does not just mean a job.

"Another way for someone to meet this requirement is education and training, making them more valuable. If they are getting training, taking classes, this is another way they can meet that requirement," he said.

Westerman also noted such measures have widespread appeal among the voting populace.

"Republicans, Democrats, even Independents, most people we've talked to have expressed support for these sorts of measures," Westerman said. "I'm hoping that this kind of bi-partisan support will make its way to Congress."

Boozman noted that businesses call for relief from regulation burdens from Washington D.C., Little Rock and even from local towns, in some cases.

"We have been working with President Trump to deal with over-regulation and cut red tape," he said. "And we've made lots of progress in doing so, but we have more to do."

Boozman especially credits local banks for the work to do to help local businesses get the capital they need for operations.

"More than 90 percent of businesses in Arkansas are small businesses and they need their community banks," he said. "They wrestle with burdensome regulation and we want to help. We have several measures working their way through the Senate and the House intended to do just
that."

Westerman expressed pride in the work of small-business owners, meeting the challenges they face to get things done.

"Smart business people learned how to survive in current circumstances," he said. "And they have good workers who helped make this happen."

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