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Statement of the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development

Throughout my tenure as Assistant Secretary, I have had the opportunity to meet people from diverse backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses and found that we all share the common goal of improving our communities.

It has been the honor of my lifetime to visit our projects all across the country and to see first-hand the impactful work that is taking place to help achieve this goal.

To help our communities succeed, the Economic Development Administration (EDA), under the U.S. Department of Commerce’s “Open for Business” agenda, is modernizing the way economic development is done in the 21st century while building on our historical strength of helping distressed communities revitalize, expand, and upgrade their physical infrastructure to help them meet 21st century demands.

Of the approximately $238 million EDA invested in FY 2015 in locally-driven economic development projects nationwide, approximately $143 million was invested in construction projects that communities determined would enhance their local economic development efforts. Grantees expect these investments will help create or retain approximately 35,000 jobs and generate $4.2 billion in private investment.

We have successfully developed and implemented regional innovation programs resulting in more than 100 regional innovation projects across the U.S. These programs include leading edge integrated investment to transform communities such as the Partnership for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative and the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP).

Moving forward, EDA and importantly the White House share a vision for the continuation of this successful and impactful new way of doing business and for boosting EDA’s role as an effective integrator of federal economic development resources.

Based on our successful track record of leading these multi-agency initiatives, the President has charged EDA to take on a wider role as an integrator of economic development resources for communities. In addition, EDA’s critical leadership of multi-agency initiatives supports locally-driven, bottom-up strategies so that we can be a more effective partner.

EDA seeks to discover the best practices and abilities from across all of the Federal Government to achieve even more tangible and greater results for our communities in need by increasing their awareness of resources that can improve their economic condition and help them become more competitive in the global marketplace.

Prioritizing our approach to serving communities around the provision of integrated economic development resources from across all federal agencies will not only make it easier for communities to interact with the Federal Government and help them implement their plans in a more effective and impactful way, it will also result in a higher return on investment for federal resources put into these projects.

To ensure that our programs help our entrepreneurs gain the tools they need to move their ideas and inventions from idea to market, we have also worked hard to solidify our Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) program to foster greater entrepreneurship all across America in both urban and rural communities.

The 2015 RIS Program included $10 million to support two unique grant opportunities. The i6 Challenge is a national competition based on the most impactful models for startup creation, innovation, and commercialization. Seed Fund Support Grants provide funding for planning, formation, or launch of cluster-based seed capital funds that create capital for innovation-based, growth-oriented start-up companies in exchange for equity.

We also recognize that regions cannot implement successful economic development strategies if they do not have the skilled workers that businesses need to grow and thrive. That is why Secretary Pritzker has made skills and workforce development a top priority at the Department of Commerce for the first time.

Through the Secretary’s “Skills for Business” agenda, the Department is working with the private sector and government leaders at all levels to provide business with a highly skilled workforce that they need to compete and also prepare workers with the training needed to secure the 21st century jobs business leaders are seeking to fill.

Under “Skills for Business,” EDA has incorporated job-driven training principles into our Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) content guidelines to focus communities on addressing the workforce needs of their regional businesses.

We also lead the Communities that Work Partnership, with the goal of accelerating and documenting promising, evidence-based best practices in regional collaboration for talent development that promotes growth and opportunity in the regional economy.

We are proud of the work we have done to move the economy forward and of the improvements we have made in the way the Federal Government partners with its stakeholders.


Jay Williams

Signature of Jay Williams, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development

Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development

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