February 20, 2024

EDA Celebrates Black History Month

"I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life, as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed."

Booker T. Washington

During February, EDA joins other U.S. Department of Commerce bureaus in celebrating Black History Month. EDA’s commitment to equity and expanding opportunity for Black Americans permeates everything we do throughout the year.

“At EDA, Black History Month is a time to recognize the contributions of generations of Black innovators to U.S. economic development,” said Alejandra Y. Castillo, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development. “We believe in the limitless potential of Black entrepreneurship, innovation, and community leadership and seek to build ecosystems in which it can be fully realized.”

Black entrepreneurs make an important, undeniable impact on the U.S. economy. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were more than 140,000 Black-owned businesses in 2020 with annual sales of $141.1 billion and payrolls supporting 1.3 million people. EDA is committed to ensuring the promise of American prosperity is equitably realized through its investments in initiatives designed to generate new opportunities for the United States’ Black community.

Highlights of recent EDA investments include:

  • HBCUs. In 2023, EDA continued investing in Historically Black Colleges and Universities on its list of EDA-designated University Centers. Southern University and A&M College renewed its place on a roster that includes Claflin University, Florida A&M University, and other prominent Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). EDA University Centers leverage university assets to develop regional economic ecosystems that support innovation and high-growth entrepreneurship, resiliency, and inclusiveness.

    In addition to the University Center economic development program, major EDA projects supported through President Biden’s American Rescue Plan — including the Good Jobs Challenge and Build Back Better Regional Challenge — are continuing to actively integrate the knowledge and expertise of HBCUs in their program strategy and delivery. In Greensboro, North Carolina, for instance, North Carolina A&T University continues to make progress on STEPS4GROWTH, a clean energy workforce training initiative supported through the Good Jobs Challenge.

  • Integration with High-Growth Opportunities. EDA’s transformative Tech Hubs program is bringing together diverse public, private, and academic partners into collaborative consortia focused on driving inclusive regional growth. Each of EDA’s 31 Tech Hubs consortia is making meaningful commitments to equitable economic development. For instance, the Birmingham (Alabama) Biotechnology Hub is tapping the expertise of Acclinate, a Black-owned company that uses predictive analytics and machine learning to source diverse leads who are likely to participate in clinical trials, thereby reducing recruitment time and costs while measurably increasing participation from communities of color.
  • Addressing the Root Causes of Distress. Last year, EDA launched the Recompete Pilot Program (“Recompete”) to invest in economically distressed communities and connect people to good jobs. Authorized by the CHIPS and Science Act, Recompete targets areas where prime-age (25-54 years) employment is significantly lower than the national average.

    A prominent theme in both the 22 Finalists and nine Strategy Development Grant winners are strategies that grow local economic opportunity and competitiveness through investments related to supporting Black businesses. Five Finalists proposed more than $120 million in investment requests that focus on supporting Black-owned businesses and Black entrepreneurship. EDA received an additional $250 million across eight Finalists in funding requests focusing on economic development specifically within Black communities. Examples of Finalist strategies:

    • The Decatur, Illinois’ Recompete Plan will address key inhibitors causing unemployment among Black populations in Decatur, Illinois. In Decatur, Black employment in the service area trails Black employment in the region and the nation due to an inequitable education system and decades of deindustrialization. Through a three-pronged strategy, the Finalist aims to train residents for good manufacturing jobs, provide comprehensive wraparound supports, and strengthen manufacturing pathways for high school seniors.
    • The Reinvest Northwest: Birmingham Career Accelerator Recompete Plan, led by the City of Birmingham, requests approximately $20 million to support persistently distressed neighborhoods, including to establish a Black Business Entrepreneurship Center.
    • The East Oakland Partnership Recompete Plan, led by the Black Cultural Zone Community Development Corporation, requests approximately $20 million to unlock the potential of East Oakland communities, including to invest in Black small business capacity building and entrepreneurship.
  • The Workforce of Tomorrow, Today. EDA’s STEM Talent Challenge aims to build pipelines of diverse talent in the essential science-related fields that permeate the modern economy. The FY23 STEM Talent Challenge awarded a total of $4.5 million in grants to organizations that are creating and implementing STEM talent development strategies that complement their region’s innovation economy, with many projects directly investing in Black and other diverse community workers.

  • Knowledge Sharing. Through a grant to the New Growth Innovation Network, EDA launched Equity Impact Investments, a program focusing on development and delivery of training and toolkits that disseminate knowledge of economic development best practices in serving underrepresented populations, including the Black community.

Follow EDA on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn throughout the month for updates on EDA observances and activities in celebration of Black History Month.