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Blog Category: Jay Williams

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.

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.

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.