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Speeches/Remarks

Tulsa Regional Chamber
Washington, D.C. “OneVoice” Fly-In
The Grand Hyatt Washington
Independence Ballroom FGHI
Thursday, June 6, 2019 – 9:30am

[As Prepared for Delivery]

Thank you, Rose, for the kind introduction!

With strategic initiatives focused on boosting regional economic and workforce development, tourism, business and education advocacy, and community development, the Tulsa Regional Chamber plays a critical and invaluable role in growing jobs, talent, and opportunity in its service area.

I thank you, the entire Board of Directors, and President and CEO Michael Neal for the invitation to address the membership this morning.

The Chamber’s strong focus on regional collaboration and this year’s fly-in theme of ‘one voice’ is timely and it’s great to see so many business leaders from Tulsa and northeast Oklahoma here today.

As an entrepreneur who started a suite of diverse businesses and commercial real estate ventures in 1985 that have grown across three states and created hundreds of jobs in the private sector, I’m passionate about economic development and the role that government can play in helping foster the conditions for private sector capital investment and job creation.

Under the leadership of President Trump - our nation’s first businessperson President - the economy has come roaring back to life.

I am honored to work for a President whose America First agenda prioritizes American jobs, American workers, and American industry instead of burdensome regulation and unfair trade deals.

I am honored to work for a President whose policies have unleashed American growth at a pace experts thought was not possible, with real GDP growing at 3.0 percent during 2018, the fastest 4th quarter to 4th quarter growth rate since 2005.

I am honored to work for a President that prioritized tax reform to boost economic confidence across all of our business sectors.

As a result of these policies, our nation has seen non-stop job creation since the President’s election, with more than 6 million jobs being created to date.

This includes 500,000 jobs created in the manufacturing sector, alone.

Working together, we will see these numbers continue to grow.

As I embrace the role of Assistant Secretary for Economic Development, I look forward to visiting your region, seeing your projects, and learning first-hand about the challenges that you face.

I am proud of the Economic Development Administration’s reputation of fostering sustainable economic growth, cultivating job creation and encouraging innovative solutions that improve local and regional economic development outcomes.

This morning, I’d like to speak with you about the work we are currently undertaking at the administration level and at EDA to help support your locally-devised development projects.

Today, the Trump Administration is working hard to ensure that the economic and investment policies we are implementing create a favorable environment for you to make an investment.

One of the most important ways the Administration is doing this is through the restructuring of the country’s tax code. We finally have a corporate tax rate that is competitive through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

In one provision of the new tax law, investors get tax benefits by investing in the nearly 9,000 Opportunity Zones identified by the chief executives in all 50 states and territories.

The tax code provides an opportunity for people to take unrealized capital gains and invest in these long-neglected communities through investment vehicles called Qualified Opportunity Funds. The capital gains tax for long-term investment in these Zones is 0.

Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin estimates that private businesses will invest $100 billion in Opportunity Zones.

As a fellow businessperson, I am excited to help promote the promise of Opportunity Zones and encourage you, if you haven’t already, to invest in them.

I want to stress that this new, unique, and special tool is available to virtually anyone to enhance ROI.

As businesspeople and economic developers, I want you to think of Opportunity Zone investment as a new arrow in your quiver that can work to not only enhance ROI, but also encourage the public/private partnerships needed to drive private investment to distressed areas – adding a social value to investing.

In a nut-shell, investing in Opportunity Zones provides a broad, easily accessible tool that offers something to everyone.

Critically, EDA has taken steps in its 2018 Notice of Funding Opportunity for Public Works and Economic Adjustment Assistance Programs to make eligible entities within qualified Opportunity Zones generally eligible for EDA funds.

We have already seen communities across the country utilize this eligibility category when applying for EDA grants.

The Greater Tulsa region is ripe for Opportunity Zone investment and we look forward to working with you as you develop your strategies and projects.

Now, if you are considering working with EDA, I’d like you to keep one thing in mind: economic development planning is the cornerstone of everything we do.

The Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy – or CEDS process -can play an important role in bringing all the vital players in a region together to develop effective economic development strategies.

Our most successful investments in greater Tulsa and northeast Oklahoma are a direct result of the strong partnership between EDA and our Economic Development Districts in the region.

The EDD’s help to pull together the state and local stakeholders needed to build effective EDA projects, including successful projects that we have funded in Rogers County and Sapulpa.

In Rogers County, a $1.5 million EDA investment made in 2017 helped attract Sofidel, an Italian company, into the city of Inola.

Today, Sofidel, the second-largest tissue paper producer in Europe, and sixth largest worldwide, has started building its new, integrated paper production plant, just 30 miles east of Tulsa. I’m sure you all know it.

To help bring this opportunity to the region, a partnership of local governments, the State of Oklahoma, and two EDA designated Economic Development Districts - the Indian Nations Council of Governments and the Grand Gateway Economic Development Association - worked together to develop the industrial site that brought the company and others to the area.

This project is a great example of how Foreign Direct Investment can help create new jobs in a rural region.

In Sapulpa, a $1.5 million EDA investment in the city is helping develop 225-acres of vacant land to attract a major manufacturing company, as well as possible related companies, to the area.

This project will help create thousands of middle-class jobs while diversifying the regional economy.

INCOG has been a key player in helping bring this project to fruition.

Our extensive network of EDDs also uniquely positions EDA to help coordinate long-term regional disaster recovery efforts.

As you may have heard, earlier this week Congress passed, and the President is expected to sign a disaster aid package that will make available $19.1 billion to communities impacted by natural disasters in 2018 and 2019.

EDA is expected to receive $600 million of these funds to help impacted communities.

This funding will be on top of the $600 million EDA is currently administering to help communities impacted by 2017 natural disasters rebuild and recover.

With the President signing an emergency declaration for Oklahoma, including for the five counties represented by INCOG: Tulsa, Wagoner, Rogers, and Osage, we are heartened that EDA’s strong partnerships in the Tulsa region can lead to a strong economic recovery.

I encourage you to look for ways that we can aid your recovery and resiliency efforts, including in Opportunity Zones.

I want to personally thank all of you here today who are representing disaster impacted communities. Your efforts, big and small, to aid recovery are noticed.

At EDA, we also understand that entrepreneurship is the engine of our economy - after all, entrepreneurs and small businesses are our greatest job creators.

We also understand that innovation is the fuel for the engine and believe that all citizens should be empowered to innovate in order to carve their own paths to prosperity.

Our Regional Innovation Strategies – or RIS – program allows EDA to help by awarding grants to a broad range of communities and entities to develop and strengthen high-growth, innovation-based regional economies.

The RIS program helps build regional capacity to translate ideas and inventions into products, services, companies, and jobs. It does this through increased access to capital and entrepreneurial support, ultimately increasing a regions’ economic competitiveness.

Since 2014, RIS has awarded $78 million in Federal funds and attracted an additional $89 million in local matching funds across 180 projects in five grant competitions.

As of March 2018, RIS projects have created or retained more than 8,200 jobs and attracted more than $1 billion in follow-on startup capital.

The Oklahoma Innovation Institute in Tulsa is a 2015 i6 Challenge grantee.

Under the program they built and deployed a web portal designed to facilitate and support the transition of ideas, technologies and prototypes from the research lab into the marketplace.

We look forward to announcing our 2019 RIS grantees this fall.

Finally, I would like to highlight EDA’s actions as the integrator of economic development resources for communities.

Interagency collaboration can help achieve shared goals and alleviate often frustrating bureaucracy.

This role as an integrator of Federal economic development resources allows us to help customers – whether EDA grantees or other partners – leverage the Federal assets that our communities and regions need to produce impactful economic development projects.

This assistance can be especially valuable to you as you work to attract private investment in Opportunity Zones and disaster impacted communities.

Please visit EDA.GOV to learn more about how we can help you make these connections.

To conclude, I want to again thank each of you for traveling to our nation’s capital, for your time, and for your leadership in creating economic opportunity in your region and beyond.

It is through your hard work and collaborative focus that a highly competitive business environment is a hallmark of the greater Tulsa region.

I want to assure you that we are reciprocating your efforts by working to be effective stewards of your tax-payer dollars:

  • Based on historical averages, every $1 of EDA infrastructure funding generates $15 in private investment.
  • Additionally, EDA investments are matched, on average, 1-to-1 in local investment.
  • And, EDA infrastructure projects create and retain jobs at a cost of about $13,500 per job.

Thanks again for the opportunity to be with you today!

I’d be happy to take any questions you may have.

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