GREENBRIER — Congressman French Hill on Tuesday participated in Greenbrier’s Coffee with the Council event as civic leaders shifted the typically-locally based discussion to instead focus on state and national matters.

The Greenbrier Chamber of Commerce hosts the Coffee with the Council event about three times a year, allowing residents the opportunity to sit down with the city’s aldermen in a meet-and-greet type setting.

Dena DeValle, chamber administrator, said the event is well-received among the city’s leaders and its residents.

Because of the “exciting economic growth” Greenbrier has to offer while also being “one of the best schools in the state,” Hill said he wanted to spend time in the small, Faulkner County town. The congressman told the small crowd he bragged on the city’s school district when giving the keynote address for the Rotary Club of Little Rock.

Greenbrier is doing “terrific work both on college-bound students and for students who want … to get to work,” he said.

During the meet and greet, Hill discussed the need for workforce training, improving veterans care and securing federal grants for central Arkansas.

Veterans deserve customer service that addresses their needs, he said. However, these individuals often become “worn out trying to get services.” The current goal is go ensure the Veterans Affairs department to offer and make readily available the services these residents need.

Other important reform measures across the state include programs for parolees transitioning back into society, Hill said.

“About 55% of recidivism occurs within three years [of release] if you do not have employment,” Hill said of the need for after-care programs.

Individuals who show a willingness to work and who have job skills should be able to find an avenue to begin rebuilding their life.

“Each year, Arkansas releases 10,000 people from state incarceration,” he said. “These parolees face immense barriers. When a to-be-released person is involved in a transitional program combined with drug and alcohol treatment and skills training, the recidivism rate is low, around 10 or 15%. However, for those who don’t participate in any kind of transitional program and who don’t have a skill or remain drug- and alcohol-addicted, the recidivism rate after three years is closer to 60%.”

Local residents also asked the congressman about issues with the nation’s trade stance with other countries.

To this, Hill said the “economy is strong … but there are challenges out there in the world that will come into the United States.” More specifically, officials have witnessed the world economy slow down.

President Donald Trump has hopes to rest the United States’ global trade position in response to issues with trading with China.

“We’re in the process of reaching a trade agreement with Japan, which should be announcing this fall,” he said, adding that “this is a global issue with China, not just a U.S. issue.”

Staff writer Marisa Hicks can be reached at mhicks@thecabin.net.