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Latest Blog Posts

EDA’s SC2 Economic Visioning Challenge

Caption below The Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Economic Visioning Challenge (EVC) is an innovative prize competition designed to engage diverse teams to help U.S. cities generate tailored economic development plans.  The SC2 EVC is sponsored by the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) and administered by three selected cities:

EDA awarded each of the three cities $1 million in 2012 to launch their competitions. In Phase 1, which was completed in December 2014, Greensboro, Hartford, and Las Vegas awarded a total of $300,000 in small prizes for the best preliminary economic development proposals.  A total of 143 teams registered across all three cities, and 26 were selected as Phase 2 finalists.

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Spotlight: Looking Back on 50 Incredible Years


Caption below Photo Caption: Then Assistant Secretary Baruah presenting a $1.5 million check tothe City of Lakewood

“My time at EDA was a rewarding professional experience. I had the opportunity to work with many dedicated and smart public servants working hard to make economic opportunity more available to more Americans – and that is a goal that everyone can applaud.” – Sandy Baruah, EDA Assistant Secretary 2005-2008


Caption below Photo Caption: Then Assistant Secretary John Fernandez at a ground- breaking with future (and current) Assistant Secretary Jay Williams in Hermitage, PA

“Happy 50th Birthday EDA! As a former Assistant Secretary for Economic Development I’m honored to have been part of this legacy change for America’s most economically challenged regions. Since its inception in 1965, EDA's transformative investments have been helping create jobs and build more competitive communities. Today, EDA's Regional Innovation Strategies program, including the i6 Challenge, continue this important work levering private-public partnerships to accelerate innovation and job creation across America.” – John Fernandez, EDA Assistant Secretary 2009-2012

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Highlight: The Evolution of Economic Development

EDA 50th Anniversary logo Economic development has been around since the early 1900s, but controlled primarily by the private sector. Banks, railroads, utilities, and businesses largely led economic development activities based purely on increasing profits. All that changed in 1933 when the federal government decided to adopt a stronger, more comprehensive federal role in economic development. The result was increased federal investment in the public good to help build capacity and avoid a private-sector monopoly on America’s infrastructure.

By the mid-20th century, there was a growing realization that economic development had to include more than just investing in infrastructure to help address socioeconomic inequities. On August 26, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson took the first step by signing the Public Works and Economic Development Act, authorizing the creation of the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to help stimulate industrial and commercial growth in distressed communities across the nation.

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Success Story: Rebuilding Watts California

Assistant Secretary Williams visits the Watts Tower in Watts, California This month, we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Economic Development Administration. It’s an occasion that offers an opportunity to reflect on all of the great work the agency has done and the impact it has had. But, August 2015 also marks the 50th anniversary of a darker event – the Watts Riots. Over six days, the riots resulted in 34 deaths, more than 1,000 injuries, 3,400 arrests, and more than $40 million in property damage. Rebuilding the community and its economy would be a massive undertaking, and thankfully there was a newly created federal agency designed to help communities rebuild their economies.

Following the riots, Watts was designated as a “Special Impact Area.” This designation enabled EDA to help fund the creation of the Economic Resources Corporation (ERC), which was established in 1968 to continue economic development works and projects in the Watts community. Even from its early days, EDA understood that economic development projects should be driven locally and run by the community, and the region needed an organization committed to doing that driving.

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Message from Assistant Secretary Jay Williams

U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Jay Williams I am honored and privileged to serve as Assistant Secretary for this incredible agency and to shepherd EDA into its 50th year. As we’ve prepared to commemorate 50 years of EDA investments, leadership, and successes, we’ve had the opportunity to look back. I’ve enjoyed hearing from our long-time staff that has shared stories about EDA’s past. I hope you are enjoying the historic photos we have shared on Facebook and Twitter and in this newsletter. It’s been a nice time of reflection, but it also provides an opportunity to look forward.

EDA has an incredible and storied history, but it’s got an even more promising future. From critical public works projects to helping fledgling new companies commercialize their products, EDA has, and continues to, partner with communities to support their unique needs. EDA’s role as a convener on multi-agency initiatives, such as IMCP and POWER, is helping revolutionize federal programs by breaking down silos and leveraging economies of scale.

EDA’s future is bright. With your continued support and partnership, I can say with certainty that there will be even more to celebrate over the next 50 years.


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Innovation Can Happen Anywhere

These days, there is a lot of talk about “innovation hubs.” When people think about innovation, many think about tech-heavy areas like Silicon Valley or Austin, Texas with young start-up CEOs in jeans and a hoodie. Or they think of big cities like Boston and Atlanta where giant companies invest in research and development for the next scientific breakthrough.

However, rural areas can also be centers of innovation – places like Alaska, where the Cold Climate Housing Research Center is revolutionizing how people can heat their homes efficiently in the Arctic Circle, where energy costs can be staggering.

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Supporting Vibrant Native American Communities

Supporting Vibrant Native American CommunitiesWhen Secretary Pritzker declared that the Department of Commerce is “open for business,” she meant that this agency would be on the side of all businesses across our country – including Native American entrepreneurs, business owners, workers, tribal governments, and families

Today, the Secretary will spend time meeting with Native American youth and tribal leaders in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to highlight the key services offered by our Department in Indian Country, such as data resources, trade promotion, infrastructure funding, access to capital, and contracting opportunities to promote robust, sustainable economic growth, opportunity, and job creation.

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Q & A with Julie Kirk, Director of EDA’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Matt S. Erskine Julie Kirk was appointed by Secretary Pritzker to lead the Economic Development Administration’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIE) in May 2014. As Director of OIE, she is charged with driving programs and priorities that support innovative economic development such as innovation-based entrepreneurship and regional innovation clusters. She took a few minutes to answer some questions about her first year in the role and what she hopes will be her EDA legacy when her term is over.

How do you see the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship's work fitting into the larger EDA mission?

OIE provides subject matter expertise for EDA regional teams and communities across the nation in leveraging innovation and entrepreneurship as a driver of economic growth and resiliency, a key pillar of EDA’s mission. We help amplify the great work going on in our regions and create national grant programs such as the Regional Innovation Strategies aimed at helping communities support the building blocks of an ecosystem of innovation.

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Secretary Pritzker Promotes Entrepreneurship and a Path Forward for America's Economy in Kansas City

On Tuesday, Secretary Pritzker traveled to Kansas City to address up-and-coming entrepreneurs as well as important community groups.

She began the day with a roundtable at Digital Sandbox, a company that provides proof-of-concept resources to support the commercialization of new ideas and promote business and job growth in the Kansas City area. There, Secretary Pritzker spoke with local entrepreneurs about how the Department of Commerce can work alongside new businesses to shape the next great era of American entrepreneurship and innovation. As “America’s Innovation Agency,” the Department of Commerce prioritizes its support of startups, entrepreneurship and business incubators through intellectual property protection, collection and dissemination of data that helps build businesses, and investments in local economic development.

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