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Blog Category: Economic Development Administration

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.

U.S. Department of Commerce Announces $15 Million Grant Competition to Spur Regional Innovation

U.S. Department of Commerce Announces $15 Million Grant Competition to Spur Regional Innovation

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today announced the launch of the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) $15 million 2014 Regional Innovation Strategies Program competition to spur innovation capacity-building activities in regions across the nation. Under this program, EDA is soliciting 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.

“President Obama and I are committed to strengthening American innovation, which is crucial for sustained economic growth and competitiveness,” said Secretary Pritzker. “The EDA Regional Innovation Strategies Program announced today, which builds on the highly successful i6 Challenge, will help spur innovation through the development and strengthening of regional innovation clusters. Innovation clusters strengthen communities by creating good jobs and growing regional economies nationwide.”

“EDA helps foster connected, innovation-centric economic sectors to support commercialization and entrepreneurship, including through regional innovation clusters,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Jay Williams. “EDA’s new funding opportunity will provide more communities and regions with the resources they need to help local businesses start and grow. Specifically, EDA will help regions across the country develop regional innovation strategies, including proof of concept and commercialization centers, feasibility studies for the creation and expansion of science and research parks, and opportunities to close the funding gap for early-stage companies. This new funding opportunity is also an important component of the Administration’s commitment to build globally competitive regions.”.

The 2014 Regional Innovation Strategies Program originally started as the Regional Innovation Program under the reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act of 2010. This year’s program includes $15 million in funding for the following programs:

  • i6 Challenge ($8M): Launched in 2010 as part of the Startup America Initiative, the i6 Challengeis a national competition based on the most impactful national models for startup creation, innovation, and commercialization. The 2014 i6 has been broadened to include growing or expanding existing centers or programs and considering funding for later-stage Commercialization Centers, which provide opportunities for fine tuning and refinement of innovations. Special consideration will be given to programs which include initiatives focusing on innovative manufacturing and exports. 

U.S. Department of Commerce Invests Nearly $2 Million to Support Entrepreneurs and Startups in South Carolina

U.S. Department of Commerce Invests Nearly $2 Million to Support Entrepreneurs and Startups in South Carolina

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today announced that the Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is awarding a $1.9 million investment to the University of South Carolina (USC)/Columbia Technology Incubator. The grant will support the building of a new startup center to serve as the regional hub for the development of entrepreneurship, incubation, and acceleration programs for early stage ventures across South Carolina. According to the grantee, the investment is expected to create 698 jobs and generate $11.9 million in private investment in the first five years of the project.

The Obama Administration and Commerce Department have prioritized supporting American innovation and entrepreneurship, which are key drivers of U.S. competitiveness, job growth and long-term economic growth. The EDA investment announced today will support an important infrastructure project that support public-private partnerships with the University of South Carolina to help local entrepreneurs and businesses grow.

EDA’s investment will support the construction a 50,000-square-foot technology and incubation facility. As the first development in a new technology corridor in USC’s Innovista Innovation District, the center is expected to serve as a critical facility for integrating USC and the Columbia Metro region's entrepreneurial activities. This facility will be able to take advantage of its proximity to the University of South Carolina's research activities, emerging technologies in the region, and student/faculty talent to help create a world class regional innovation ecosystem.

In addition, the investment will facilitate the co-location of entrepreneurs, technology startups, existing and mature technology ventures, and the region's community of entrepreneurial support organizations to create a mixture of talent, technology, capital, and mentoring. The grantee expects this co-location to facilitate the launch and acceleration of a new generation of technology ventures in the state.

EDA: Helping Communities Build Economic Resilience

EDA: Helping Communities Build Economic Resilience

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

Since taking office, President Obama and his administration have worked to help communities and regions impacted by natural disasters and major economic challenges respond and rebuild stronger than before.

This week, on a visit to Colorado, I was pleased to have the opportunity to announce two Economic Development Administration investments that support those efforts in two communities.

In Estes Park, a picturesque town located at the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, residents are working diligently to rebound from severe flooding that hit them hard as they were preparing for the busy snow season – and the economic tourism boon that comes with it - last fall. 

To help the town following the federally-declared flood disaster, I was honored to announce a $300,000 EDA investment to help the Town develop a strategy that will guide their economic diversification and resiliency efforts. One key component of this grant is developing specific actions to make use of Estes Park’s existing fiber optic ring to deliver improved broadband services to the town and surrounding region. By working with other affected communities – including nearby Loveland and Lyons – this strategy will help the region diversify while strengthening their existing established industry clusters.

In Colorado’s central western region, the recent closure of Oxbow Elk Creek coal mine has resulted in a regional economic emergency. 

To help the region respond, I announced a $245,000 EDA grant to the Region 10 League for Economic Assistance and Planning of Montrose, Colorado, to help create a strategy that aims to improve and enhance the economic resiliency and sustainability of Delta and Gunnison counties.

Resiliency is critical to economic prosperity: all communities—whether in a position likely to weather significant natural disasters, or struggling to deal with immediate or pending catastrophes—must have or be able to develop strategies that can mitigate an economic downturn and support long-term recovery efforts.

I am proud of the important role EDA plays in helping communities get back on their feet stronger than before.

U.S. Commerce Department Invests $2.8 Million to Foster Innovation in Louisiana and Massachusetts

U.S. Commerce Department Invests $2.8 Million to Foster Innovation in Louisiana and Massachusetts

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today announced $2.8 million in Economic Development Administration (EDA) investments to support projects that will foster innovation and entrepreneurship in Louisiana and Massachusetts.

“The Obama Administration and Commerce Department have prioritized supporting American innovation, which is the key driver of U.S. competitiveness, job growth and long-term economic growth,” said Secretary Pritzker. “The EDA investments announced today will support critical infrastructure and manufacturing projects that use innovation to help attract investment and create jobs in Louisiana and Massachusetts.”

The investments announced today include the following:

  • In Vidalia, Louisiana, EDA is investing $1.2 million to help construct the 5,700-square-foot Vidalia Technology Center that will function as an incubator to help entrepreneurs to compete globally and create viable employment opportunities in the region. The EDA grant will also support the building of a more robust high speed broadband infrastructure with alternative power sources. Given its relative isolation from major markets and employment hubs, this Mississippi Delta region town needs adequate Internet connectivity to better prepare for and respond to natural disasters. The increased access to broadband communication and back-up power sources will make both the public and business sectors more resilient and strengthen the speed of future recovery efforts.

EDA and the International Economic Development Council Create User-Friendly Tool to Help Communities Recover Their Economy after Disasters

EDA and the International Economic Development Council Create User-Friendly Tool to Help Economies Recover after Disasters

Everyone sees the destruction caused by a natural disaster – the loss of life and property make headlines for weeks. But natural disasters can have lasting effects that don’t garner as much media attention. Beyond property and infrastructure costs, disasters impact the health of the business community. According to the Small Business Administration, as much as 25 percent of small businesses do not reopen after major disasters. Communities need to be prepared for all of the effects of a natural disaster, and there is a new tool available to help them be more resilient.

The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) recently launched "Leadership in Times of Crisis: A Toolkit for Economic Recovery and Resiliency" – a guide to help communities recover their economy after a disaster. The toolkit was funded in part by an Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant and is available for free download at www.RestoreYourEconomy.org. It includes practical resources, proven how-to's, real world case examples, checklists and best practices to implement recovery programs following any type of disaster and to make preparations in order to be more resilient after potential future events.

"Leadership in Times of Crisis" provides strategies and tactics for community leaders to focus on for economic recovery and preserving jobs, incorporating useful information for convening private and public stakeholders to identify key economic recovery strategies, tips on how to navigate federal resources for response and recovery, and implementation of recovery initiatives.

A wide range of public and private sector officials that provide support to businesses and industries in the economic recovery process can benefit from using the toolkit, including economic development organizations (EDOs), chambers of commerce, business leaders, small business development centers (SBDC), community colleges and business schools, and community development financing institutions (CDFIs), among other organizations.

Building Infrastructure to Strengthen Environmental Resiliency

Assistant Secretary Williams announces $1 million EDA investment to help build the Austin’s [re]Manufacturing Hub Eco-Industrial Park. (L-R): Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell,  Assistant Secretary Williams, U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett.

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

Environmental sustainability is a priority for the Department of Commerce and EDA. In the last 5 years alone, EDA has made more than 130 investments that support green projects and environmental resilience across the nation. As climate change becomes more pronounced, it is crucial that communities and regions factor in to their strategic plans new development and infrastructure to account for and mitigate the potential environmental impact.

Earlier this month, I had the honor of being joined by Congressman Lloyd Doggett and Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell in Austin, Texas to announce an EDA grant to the city. EDA is investing $1 million to build infrastructure to serve Austin’s [re]Manufacturing Hub Eco-Industrial Park, which will house recycling manufacturing firms and focus on recycling market development.  This grant checks some critical boxes by creating jobs and securing private investment. But, this particular investment will also help Austin achieve its Zero Waste goals and is an excellent example of how infrastructure can be used in an innovative way toward forward-looking goals. The Austin [re]Manufacturing Hub will be the nexus for green jobs in the recycling, reuse and repair industry to support Austin's Zero Waste goals and will provide the economic driver for jobs and investment through waste-based industry in the Central Austin region. The infrastructure will not simply provide utility service to this project, but will drive economic development opportunities along a currently underdeveloped corridor in Austin, ultimately leading to jobs for economically distressed areas of the city and unincorporated Travis County as well as Central Texas.

There are many other examples of EDA green investments – investments that enable alternative energies, help upgrade buildings to achieve LEED certification, or promote reducing a region’s carbon footprint.  We are proud to be supporting President Obama’s and Secretary Pritzker’s goals for environmental sustainability. You can learn more about EDA’s commitment to the environment and how economic development can aid conservation efforts in EDA’s April 2014 Newsletter.

Data Driving Development: EDA Releases New Cluster Mapping Tool to Help Spur Regional Economic Growth

Data Driving Development:  EDA Releases New Cluster Mapping Tool to Help Spur Regional Economic Growth

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

Earlier this week, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker announced the launch of the U.S. Cluster Mapping and Registry project, a national economic initiative based at Harvard Business School’s Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness and supported by the U.S. Economic Development Administration.  The U.S. Cluster Mapping and Registry project aims to strengthen U.S. competitiveness by understanding the economic performance of clusters and regions across the United States.

EDA staff gets inquiries daily from different organizations looking for grant information. Every community we speak with has a plan it is developing to spur economic growth and create jobs. Some are more fleshed out that others, but EDA’s advice is always the same: look at the resources in your community and make sure this project fits with the economic strengths of your area. In short, identify your regional clusters.

Clusters are geographic concentrations of interconnected industries and supportive organizations that make regions uniquely competitive for jobs and private investment – like the automotive cluster in the South and the biotech cluster in the Northeast. Clusters are not top-down formulas aimed at being a panacea for all economic development needs. Nor are they intended to serve as a litmus test for qualifying or strictly characterizing good or bad projects. Clusters thrive and are critical in both urban and rural communities and provide a framework for understanding regional competitiveness and drivers of private investment and job creation. They also help identify and prioritize opportunities for public investment and provide a platform for linking, leveraging, and aligning federal or state programs to get a better return on investment of taxpayer funds.

Engaging Indian Country to Help Create Conditions for Economic Opportunity on Trust Lands

Engaging Indian Country to Help Create Conditions for Economic Opportunity on Trust Lands

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

Traveling this week on my first official trip as Assistant Secretary for Economic Development, I was honored to participate in the National Congress of the American Indians mid-year conference “Claiming our Rights and Strengthening our Governance” in Anchorage, Alaska.
 
While there, I served on a panel with Kevin Washburn, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior, Kevin Gover, Director of the National Museum of the American Indian and former Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, and James M. Olguin, Councilman, Southern Indian Tribe. We met with tribal leaders for a focused discussion on the importance of developing modern trust management systems and creating the conditions for economic growth on tribal trust lands. 
 
The Obama Administration has a long history of being actively engaged in helping tribal communities expand their economic footprint, and recent changes in federal laws and regulations have opened the door to development of tribal trust lands. As a critical part of our discussion, I explained how the U.S. Department of Commerce can work with Tribes to develop these lands and attract the private investment they need to create more jobs.
 
For nearly 50 years, the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration has partnered with Tribal communities throughout the United States to foster job creation, collaboration and regional innovation. In the last five years alone, EDA has awarded nearly $42 million in assistance to Indian tribes to help them plan and implement their bottom-up economic development strategies.