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August 2015

Secretary Penny Pritzker Congratulates EDA on 50 Great Years

Video message
from Commerce
Secretary Pritzker

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.


Success Story: Rebuilding Watts California

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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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Highlight: The Evolution of Economic Development

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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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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


Caption below Balloon marking the ground breaking ceremony site for the EDA-funded Mayaguez Regional Distribution Center site in Puerto Rico in March 1971.


Caption below A cargo ship under construction at the Seatrain’s Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1969. EDA invested in the facility, which created 3,000 jobs at the time.


Caption below Bridge construction as part of an access road funded by EDA in Garfield County, Utah in the 1960s.


Caption below Instructor with a student at an EDA-supported vocational-technical school in Eveleth, Minnesota in the 1970s.


Caption below Women working an early version of a “clean room” at the Burroughs Corporation plant in Rancho Bernando, California assembling micro-electric components in the 1960s.

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NACo and NADO Announce Innovation Challenge Winners

On July 28, the National Association of Counties (NACo) and the National Association of Development Organizations Research Foundation announced the eight teams that have been selected to attend an economic diversification training workshop and receive technical assistance support. The aim of the Innovation Challenge, which is supported by EDA, is to assist counties and regions that are experiencing economic challenges due changes affecting the coal industry. The eight interdisciplinary teams will attend a three-day training workshop in Grand Junction, Colorado and benefit from individual assistance before and after the event that will help them implement a variety of strategies and projects related to economic diversification, asset-based development, cluster development, workforce training, broadband, recreation and tourism and entrepreneurship. On August 17, NACo and the NADO Research Foundation opened the final round of competition to invite additional counties and regions to attend an economic diversification training workshop in Charleston, W.Va., scheduled November 18-20. Access information about selected teams and workshop materials from the first workshop in Pikeville, KY April 22-24.


EDA Launches 2015 Regional Innovation Strategies Program

On August 4th, EDA released the 2015 Regional Innovation Strategies Federal Funding Opportunity. Of the $10 million in available funding under the 2015 RIS, up to $2 million will go toward Seed Fund Support Grants and $8 million will go toward the i6 Challenge. For 2015, EDA anticipates awarding up to $2.5 million of the i6 funds to projects that support innovation in rural or underserved communities.


Greensboro Strong Cities, Strong Communities Winners Announced

On August 17, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regional Affairs Tom Guevara was in Greensboro, North Carolina to announce the winners of Greensboro’s Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Economic Visioning Challenge. The aim of the Challenge is to spark economic development in communities that have faced significant long-term challenges in developing and implementing their economic strategies.


Assistant Secretary Williams Commemorates 50th Anniversary of the Watts Riots

“Watts has indeed rejoiced through both hope and suffering. Steadfast leaders like Janice Hahn, Maxine Waters, Yvonne Burke, Sweet Alice, Arturo Ybarra, Betty Day, and so many others, planted seeds of opportunity to help bridge the economic and social inequality gap.” – Assistant Secretary Williams

Assistant Secretary Williams with actor Louis Gossett, Jr (top photo) and with Congresswoman Janice Hahn (bottom photo) during the commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Watts Riots. image