Organization of American States
Inter-American Council for Integral Development Meeting
November 14, 2019
[As Prepared for Delivery]
Secretary General Almagro, Madam Chair, Secretary Osborne, thank all for your leadership and thank you for raising the critical topic of competitiveness to the top of today’s agenda.
It’s a pleasure to be with you and an honor to be working with such a prominent group of Ambassadors, delegates and permanent observers.
I have met many of you, or worked with many of your colleagues, through my engagement in the America’s Competitiveness Exchange, or ACE.
In October, I was pleased to lead a distinguished delegation of American business and economic development professionals to Chile to participate in ACE 12.
Chile, thank you for such a wonderful event.
I came away with a great appreciation for your country.
In May, the United States hosted ACE 11 in Puerto Rico, where we demonstrated how the Island is asserting its global competitiveness by sustaining a robust cluster of high-technology manufacturing companies and building the highly skilled workforce they need to sustain growth.
Through my long career in public service, I often look at my lens of experience to understand the world today.
As a former member of the United States Congress, I understand the role of politically stable systems.
As a small business owner, I understand the role of economic stability - stability allows firms to survive.
As a medical doctor, I understand that the basic needs of society, such as fresh water, immunizations, and sanitary conditions will help lead to prosperous societies.
Through the lens of ACE, my already strong commitment to promoting innovation, entrepreneurship, and inclusive and competitive economies to lift the economic competitiveness of our region has been strengthened.
Through ACE, we are committed to sharing with you our best practices and models to help the Western Hemisphere, and beyond, thrive.
As the only federal agency solely devoted to economic development, the U.S. Economic Development Administration, or EDA, which I lead, works to advance the competitiveness of some of the United States’ most distressed communities.
Our investments stimulate public-private partnerships, support ‘bottom-up’ strategies, and build infrastructure that capitalizes on - and further develops - both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ assets.
Proudly, for every $1 dollar that EDA invests, we generate at least $15 in private investment in return.
At EDA, economic development planning is the cornerstone of everything that we do.
We believe that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
We are pleased that Belize, Mexico, and Argentina have - or are in the process of adopting - EDA’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategies – or CEDS – methodology to ensure collaboration among individuals, organizations, local governments, and private industry.
We encourage other nations to look closely at the CEDS process to help advance regional economic development collaboration in your countries.
The goal is to help bring economic stability to your regions that will ultimately lead to increased trade, investment, and job growth.
Now, we all know that no matter how well we may plan, or how well our economies may be performing, there will always be some communities that are not prospering and are being left behind.
This is certainly true in the United States where, under the leadership of President Trump - our nation’s first businessperson President - the economy has come roaring back to life.
Tax cuts, deregulation, and an Administration dedicated to growing business have allowed the U.S. economy to flourish.
However, there are still communities that are not performing to their full potential.
To help drive private investment to these underperforming communities, which often overlap with the communities that EDA works in, the Trump Administration is encouraging investors to do good while also doing well through its Opportunity Zones Initiative.
Created by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the initiative encourages investment into nearly 9,000 specially-designated Opportunity Zones located throughout the U.S. and its territories.
Among the many benefits, the initiative allows investors to defer tax on capital gains by investing in Qualified Opportunity Funds (QOF), vehicles organized specifically for injecting money into distressed communities.
Therefore, those looking for socially conscious investing can rest assured that these Opportunity Zone investments will target development in areas of the country that need it most.
Today, governors, mayors, and other community leaders are including Opportunity Zones in their economic development strategies.
We encourage state and local governments in the U.S. to offer their own Opportunity Zone tax incentive packages to stack on top of the federal Opportunity Zone tax incentives.
In sum, we believe the sky is the limit when it comes to how the Opportunity Zones initiative can benefit investors and transform distressed communities.
When you start to follow up on all the ideas you’ll be hearing here today, I encourage you to look into the Opportunity Zone model as a way to help transform some of your most distressed areas.
Another area EDA focuses on to help communities strengthen their economic competitiveness is Foreign economic engagement, in particular Foreign Direct Investment – or FDI and exports.
Throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, we work closely with our friends and trading partners through a shared commitment to competitive and sustainable economies that deliver prosperity and opportunity for our communities.
U.S. goods and services trade with the Western Hemisphere totals $1.9 trillion annually and the U.S. has free trade agreements with 12 countries in the Americas.
Many of you in this room are probably aware; we sell more to the Western Hemisphere than we do to all of Asia combined.
These relationships have enhanced our commercial ties, brought our economies closer together, and aligned our standards and regulatory practices in ways that have created growth.
The United States is the largest recipient of FDI in the world because companies recognize us as an innovative and stable market, as well as the world's largest economy.
Today, more that 7 million U.S. jobs are supported by Foreign Direct Investment.
While in Chile, I talked about a great example of how an EDA investment and a critical Foreign Direct Investment by a Chilean company helped strengthen business ties between our nations and create U.S. jobs.
In Grayling, Michigan, a $3.2 million EDA grant to the city helped to make water and wastewater upgrades needed to attract Chilean particle board manufacturer ARAUCO [AH-row-CO].
The $400 million particleboard mill, which opened in April of this year, is the most modern and productive mill of its kind and marks the renewal of the composite panel industry in North America.
It’s a great success story because we worked together- country to country.
To close, I want to again stress the importance of incorporating strong, comprehensive economic planning into your competitiveness strategies and encourage you to explore EDA’s CEDS model.
I also want to encourage you to find innovative ways to drive private investment to your most challenged communities, investment that not only provides a great return for investors, but that also has a strong social impact.
Our Opportunity Zones initiative can provide a great model for you.
I also encourage you to continue to look toward the United States and to make mutually beneficial investments here.
And, I encourage you to engage in ACE if you have not already.
Proudly the next ACE will take place in Colorado in May.
Through ACE and the sharing of best practices, we have seen that when the right partners come together and increase their level of interaction, positive things happen for job creation, increased investment, and improved prosperity.
Through continued, results oriented engagement, we will meet our call to action to build mutually-beneficial partnerships and continue to raise the economic bar for all our economies.