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Blog Category: Economic Development Administration

Innovation Support is in Demand

Julie Kirk, Director, Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

By Julie Kirk, Director, Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship 

What do you get when you take a $15 million Regional Innovation Strategies program and add 254 applicants requesting more than $100 million in support? You get a very busy Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and compelling evidence that this program is crucial.

The Regional Innovation Strategies program was launched in September 2014 to spur innovation capacity-building activities in regions across the nation. Under this program, EDA solicited applications for three separate funding opportunities, including: the i6 Challenge, Science and Research Park Development grants, and cluster grants to support the development of Seed Capital Funds: 

  • i6 Challenge: The i6 Challenge, now in its forth iteration, is focused on accelerating the commercialization of technology. The 2014 i6 was broadened from the three previous challenges to include scaling of existing centers or programs and funding for later-stage Commercialization Centers.
  • Science/Research Parks: This new program provides funding for feasibility and planning of new or expanded Science/Research parks or renovation of existing facilities.
  • Cluster Grants for Seed Funds: Also new this year, this program provides funding for technical assistance to support feasibility, planning, formation, or launch of cluster-based seed capital funds that invest in growth-oriented, innovation-based start-up companies. Ultimately, the goal is to foster job creation. 

EDA is committed to helping foster connected, innovation-centric economic sectors which support commercialization and entrepreneurship. Working with regions across the country to develop regional innovation strategies, including regional innovation clusters, is also one of the Commerce Department’s strategic goals, and a keystone of the Secretary’s commitment to building globally competitive regions.  

This effort is also in line with the Department’s “Open for Business Agenda” priority to strengthen operational excellence: providing better services, solutions, and outcomes to better serve the American people. The overwhelming response by the application’s closing date on November 3 demonstrates that communities recognize the benefits of a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem and could benefit from the kind of support offered by the Regional Innovation Strategies program. 

Strengthening Tribal Economies – Jobs, Energy, Housing, and Infrastructure

Strengthening Tribal Economies – Jobs, Energy, Housing, and Infrastructure

Guess blog post by Jay Williams, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development

Shortly after being sworn-in as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development in May, I traveled to Anchorage, Alaska on my first official trip. There, I participated in the National Congress of the American Indians’ (NCAI) mid-year conference entitled, “Claiming our Rights and Strengthening our Governance” where I had the opportunity to meet with tribal leaders from across the country and to participate in a focused discussion on the importance of developing modern trust management systems and creating the conditions for economic growth on tribal trust lands. 

Building on this engagement, I was honored to be asked to moderate the “Strengthening Tribal Economies – Jobs, Energy, Housing, and Infrastructure” breakout session, a vital component of the White House Tribal Nations Conference that is taking place in Washington this week. 

Joined by colleagues representing a plethora of Federal agencies with involvement in the White House Council on Native American Affairs - an interagency working group brought together to tackle the issues that affect Indian Country - we discussed the critical roles that each agency plays in helping build economic and job opportunity in Indian Country. We also heard from tribal leaders on the challenges and opportunities they face and broadened the dialogue about how the Federal government can continue to support their local economic development strategies. 

The fact that my first official engagement as EDA Assistant Secretary was with Tribal nations and that I was asked to moderate this critical White House session is not coincidental.  

Economic development creates the conditions for economic growth and improved quality of life by expanding the capacity of individuals, firms, and communities to maximize their talents and skills to support innovation, lower transaction costs, and responsibly produce and trade valuable goods and services.  

For nearly 50 years, the U.S. Economic Development Administration has partnered with Tribal communities from coast to coast to promote economic development in Indian Country. 

During the past five years, EDA has awarded nearly $54 million in assistance to Indian tribes to create businesses, build roads and other infrastructure, and develop their own economic development strategies. 

While EDA grants and other Federal investments are removing economic barriers and attracting capital to Indian country, we know there is more work to be done and look forward to a strong continued partnership with our nation’s tribal communities to strengthen tribal economies. 

By bringing so many government representatives and Tribal leaders together at the White House Tribal Nation’s Conference, we aim to be more accessible to Indian Country.

Entrepreneurs: Driving the Innovation Economy in Pennsylvania

Entrepreneurs: Driving the Innovation Economy in Pennsylvania

This week marks Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW), the world’s largest celebration of the innovators and job creators, who launch startups that bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and expand human welfare. It’s a great opportunity to really look at the ways in which entrepreneurs shape our current world while looking forward toward the next big thing. 

This year, I celebrated GEW by visiting flourishing centers of innovation in Pennsylvania. Along with Julie Kirk, Director of EDA’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, we met with local entrepreneurs at Philadelphia’s University City Science Center and in Doylestown at the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center of Bucks County

It was only fitting that we kicked off GEW at the Science Center, the recipient of a $1 million EDA grant in October 2014 to help grow and launch new technology companies and an organization that has helped to create more than 15,000 jobs that contribute more than $9 billion to the Philadelphia region’s economy. 

We were joined by president & CEO of the University City Science Center Dr. Stephen Tang, who is also a newly announced member of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE). It was refreshing to have the opportunity for an open dialogue with some of the region’s most dynamic entrepreneurs on how to the United States can foster innovation and entrepreneurship in every community. 

Later in the day, Julie and I traveled to Bucks County, where EDA recently invested $4.6 million to help the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center expand its facility and offer assistance to entrepreneurs in the area. Julie and I had the opportunity to tour the Center’s facilities as well as engage in a roundtable discussion with a number of incubator tenants about their experiences getting their start-ups off the ground.

EDA is strongly committed to supporting innovation and entrepreneurship. In fact, over the past five years, EDA has invested more than $200 million in more than 170 incubators and entrepreneurship centers across the nation. 

This week in many communities across the nation and the world, roundtables like those I participated in are taking place to help foster greater innovation and entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs play a tremendous role in our economy and many of their products and services have come to play an increasingly important role in our daily lives. Every day is an opportunity to celebrate their contributions, so while GEW may end on the 21st, let’s keep up the conversation going all year round.

U.S. Department of Commerce Seeks National Partner to Help Lead New Program to Boost Job Talent Development Across America

Are you ready to join us?

Through the “Accelerating Industry-Led Regional Partnerships for Talent Development” Federal Funding Opportunity (FFO) published today, the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is now accepting proposals for a national partner to help develop and implement a new learning exchange program that will focus on building critical public-private partnerships to accelerate job skills development across America.

The availability of a skilled workforce is often cited as a primary factor considered by businesses in their investment decision process. The learning exchanges created through this initiative will help meet the skills needs of businesses by identifying, promoting, and expanding on successful industry-driven regional partnerships for talent development. By encouraging such partnerships, the program will help build regional pools of workers with the skills that are in demand by employers in their communities, leading to job creation and increased business investment.

Ensuring that our regions have the skilled workforce they need to keep our businesses strong and our economy growing is a major priority for the Administration and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

At Commerce, Secretary Pritzker, who has met with nearly 1,200 CEOs and business leaders who agree that workforce skills development is an issue that must be addressed, has made improving the linkages between training programs and employer needs a top priority in the Department’s “Open for Business” agenda.

We need dedicated partners to help us accomplish our goals.

So are you ready to join us?

Visit http://www.eda.gov/challenges/rnta-talent/ to get additional information on how to apply for this Federal Funding Opportunity.  

Applications must be submitted electronically via grants.gov and are due by 11:59 p.m. EST. on January 9, 2015

Tapping Stakeholders to Help Accelerate Innovation and Entrepreneurship

When you want something done, give it to a busy person. In the case of the newly appointed members of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE), the Department of Commerce has tapped a group of busy, innovative folks who are passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, and workforce issues to advise the Secretary on compelling challenges and opportunities in these fields. 

With the “Open for Business” agenda, Secretary Pritzker made it clear that Commerce’s role is to be the voice of business to support the Obama Administration’s focus on economic growth and job creation. Additionally, this new vision recognizes the demands of a globally competitive economy. With the new members of NACIE hailing from companies small and large as well as nonprofits and academia, the new NACIE will be a conduit for that voice of business.  As it begins its work on December 5, 2014, the Council will be focused on the theme of “creating globally competitive regions.” 

NACIE was created in 2010 as part of the America COMPETES Act reauthorization to advise the Secretary of Commerce on innovation and entrepreneurship. The previous NACIE produced several impactful outcomes, including The Innovative and Entrepreneurial University: Higher Education, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Focus report and the Improving Access to Capital for High-Growth Companies report, the latter of which served as the basis for the JOBS Act and began the process of expanding the capabilities and impact of crowd funding. 

With this iteration of NACIE, we’ve added a focus on the talent portion of the ecosystem. Having the right skilled workforce in the right place at the right time is a common challenge that is hampering many companies’ ability to grow and be competitive. Too many businesses can’t find skilled workers for jobs they want to fill, while too many people looking for a job may be ready to learn new skills but may not be certain that there’s a job waiting for them on the other end.

The specific challenge that will be issued to the NACIE members at their first organizational meeting on December 5 will be to look at what transformational investments and policies the federal government should facilitate that would help communities, businesses, and the workforce compete globally. There will be a focus on defining what “transformational” means and the Council will be urged to explore evidence-based outcomes that include metrics that can be used to monitor the impact of recommendations.

By bringing together this group of experienced, creative, and smart entrepreneurial thinkers, the Council is expected to develop innovative, actionable ideas to support the objectives of the Department of Commerce and Administration. And why not? Busy people clearly know how to get stuff done.

Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership Launches Second Round of Competition

Guest blog post by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Director of the National Economic Council Jeff Zients: Cross-posted from Whitehouse.gov

At the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership Summit in Washington, D.C. last week, the Department of Commerce and 11 federal agencies with over $1.3 billion in economic development funding brought together more than 300 people from across the country to share best practices in building local competitiveness and to launch the second round of the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership competition.

The Obama administration launched the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership initiative in 2013 to build on the momentum in manufacturing we have seen over the last several years. Since February 2010, the manufacturing sector has created over 700,000 jobs and has grown nearly twice as fast as the overall economy. And with weekly hours in manufacturing at their highest since World War II, the sector appears poised for more jobs and growth, helping make the United States more competitive today than it has been in decades.

The Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership is an initiative that aims to spur communities to develop integrated, long-term economic development strategies that sharpen their competitive edge in attracting global manufacturers and their supply chains to our local communities -- increasing investment and creating jobs. Specifically, the program brings together the resources of multiple federal departments and agencies to support strong local economic development plans.

At the first-ever Summit, the 12 communities designated "manufacturing communities" under the first Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership national competition shared best practices and an update on the hard work underway in their communities to strengthen manufacturing with other communities looking to grow their own manufacturing sectors. 

Building on the strength of their local economic development strategies in manufacturing, the 12 communities are attracting new public and private investments in their communities, including over $100 million in new federal economic development investments. For instance, Southern California's designation as a manufacturing community helped Chaffey College secure a $15 million grant from the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education to create an advanced manufacturing training center, which will train workers for the highly technical, highly skilled jobs needed to grow the industry and the economy of the region. The Greater Portland, ME Region, organized by the Puget Sound Regional Council, was awarded a $4.3 million grant from the Department of Defense to transition Washington state's defense-sector advanced manufacturing capabilities over to new applications.

Two Years after Sandy Landfall, Commerce Continues to Help Affected Communities

Satellite view of Superstorm Sandy, 10-29-12

In the two years since Hurricane Sandy made landfall on October 29, 2012, the Department of Commerce, through its National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Economic Development Administration (EDA), Census Bureau, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), has been working to help communities recover and enhance resiliency in the face of future storms.

Hours after the storm hit, NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey began aerial survey missions to assess storm damage. In total, 1649 miles of coastline were documented. The photos taken on these missions provided emergency and coastal managers with the information they needed to develop recovery strategies, facilitate search-and-rescue efforts, identify hazards to navigation and HAZMAT spills, locate errant vessels, and provide documentation home and business owners needed to assess damages to property. To date, FEMA has used the NOAA-supplied photos, as well as those from the Civil Air Patrol, to determine damage to 35,000 homes.

Following a major disaster like Sandy, one of EDA’s key roles is to lead the Economic Recovery Support Function on behalf of the Department of Commerce. After the hurricane struck, EDA joined with several other federal agencies to deploy staff to help hard-hit communities throughout the region. EDA team members worked with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Small Business Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, economic development partners, and the affected communities to identify long-term strategies that aim to help the communities restore their local economies, expedite recovery, and minimize economic losses.

EDA Announces $1.9 Million Grant to Support Advanced Manufacturing in Recognition of Manufacturing Day

EDA Announces $1.9 Million Grant to Support Advanced Manufacturing in Recognition of Manufacturing Day

Guest blog post by Jay Williams, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development

When I was growing up, manufacturing work was all about having a strong back and a strong work ethic. These days, manufacturing has changed. The first Friday in October each year marks Manufacturing Day, and today more than 1,500 manufacturers nationwide are opening their doors to host open houses, public tours, career workshops, and other events, in order to show people what manufacturing is – and what it isn’t. There is a lack of understanding of present-day manufacturing environments, which are highly technical. Manufacturing Day provides manufacturers with the opportunity to address the skilled labor shortage they face, connect with future generations, take charge of the public image of manufacturing, and ensure the ongoing prosperity of the whole industry. 

In honor of Manufacturing Day, I was joined by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and faculty members for an event at Wichita State University (WSU) in South Kansas. The region is a leader in manufacturing, and the University is a key member of the South Kansas Manufacturing Community consortium, which U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announced as one of the 12 Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) designated communities in May. While there, I announced a $1.9 million EDA grant to WSU to support advanced manufacturing. According to the grantee, the project will create 500 jobs and further regional capabilities in advanced manufacturing, with an emphasis on automated additive manufacturing innovation, and will provide competitive advantage for the transportation equipment manufacturing industry. These innovative technologies will also be applied to the emerging medical equipment manufacturing cluster in the region. 

While in Wichita, I got to see first-hand the sort of operations that have made South Kansas a leader in manufacturing. I was treated to a Manufacturing Day tour of the Wichita Operations of Bombardier-Learjet facility, where a critical EDA investment helped expand operations in 2012. The facility is truly impressive – as is the finished product

President Obama, the Commerce Department, and EDA are all committed to supporting manufacturing, because manufacturing creates good jobs with the largest multiplier effect of any part of the economy. In the last fiscal year, EDA invested in 89 manufacturing projects, totaling nearly $78 million. The projects were diverse, representing different industries, different geographies, and different community needs. Half of these projects were construction projects, which created more than 7,000 jobs and generated nearly $4.3 billion in private investment.

Manufacturing: Rebuilding America’s Economy

Manufacturing: Rebuilding America’s Economy

Guest blog post by Jay Williams, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development

Last week, I was honored to participate in Partnering for Illinois’ Economic Future Second Annual Economic Summit hosted by Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-IL) in Rock Island, Illinois. This summit is the highlight of an initiative the Congresswoman launched in 2013 to foster economic collaboration in the 17th Congressional District of Illinois, and my keynote focused on the challenges and opportunities facing the American manufacturing sector, how we can prepare for success in the global economy, and what is being done at the federal level to help regions succeed. 

Manufacturing matters:

* Manufacturing supports 17.4 million U.S. jobs.

* Manufacturing career opportunities include engineers, designers, machinists, and computer programmers.

* The annual average salary of manufacturing workers is more than $77,000, which is approximately 17 percent more than similar workers employed in other sectors.

* For every $1.00 spent in manufacturing, the sector creates $1.32 for the U.S. economy. 

While some have been quick to write the obits for nearby manufacturing towns like Moline, and East Moline, Illinois, and Davenport, Iowa, it was refreshing to see the close collaboration taking place locally to bring manufacturing back. 

At the national level, we are working to support our manufacturers by supporting efforts to build the President’s National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), which is working to accelerate development and adoption of cutting-edge manufacturing technologies.

Two weeks ago, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker spoke of the need for passage of pending bipartisan legislation that would establish the network. NNMI is all about keeping America – our manufacturers, businesses, and economy – globally competitive. NNMI is focused on helping America lead the global economy; boosting local, regional, and state economies, and most importantly, create new growth industries, right here in America. 

You Don’t Have to Start a Business to Think Like an Entrepreneur

You Don’t Have to Start a Business to Think Like an Entrepreneur

Guest blog post by Jay Williams, Assistant Secretary for Economic Development

One of my favorite things about my time as Mayor of Youngstown was having the opportunity to go out and speak to students in local schools. I found myself inspired and energized by their enthusiasm and idealism. It’s so easy to get cynical in this world, but young people tend to be optimistic about the future, and it’s nice to be reminded that there are infinite possibilities for all of us – even those of us who have been out in the world for a while. 

I have had the opportunity to speak to many different audiences in my previous role as the executive director of the auto recovery office and recently as Assistant Secretary. But last week, I got to get back to what I love when Montgomery College invited me to address its Business and Economics majors. 

I was humbled by the turnout – in a room that had more than 75 seats, there was standing room only. Most of the students in attendance were minorities or immigrants, and it was very meaningful to me to be able to address such a group as an official of the Obama Administration.

After a brief overview of my background and what EDA does, I turned the floor over to the students. I wanted to know more about them. I had been told by the faculty that many in the audience hoped to be entrepreneurs and start their own businesses someday. As I listened to their business ideas, I thought about our work with EDA. These students are on a continuum, much like the communities we help. Some just have an inkling that they want to be their own bosses while others wanted to know how they could make money of a fully fleshed out idea. Some need help with planning while others need help securing capital.