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Remarks at "Strong Cities, Strong Communities" event, Greensboro, North Carolina

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AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY
Thursday, September 20, 2012
CONTACT OFFICE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS
201-482-4883

Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank
Remarks at "Strong Cities, Strong Communities" event, Greensboro, North Carolina

Thank you.  It’s great to be here in Greensboro with Mayor Robbie Perkins and City Manger Denise Turner Roth.

As we all know, America’s cities are powerful engines that help drive our economic recovery. A study this year showed that U.S. cities with more than 150,000 people—places like Greensboro—generate about 85 percent of America’s GDP.

So, I’m pleased to be here to make an announcement from the president’s Strong Cities, Strong Communities initiative—otherwise known as “SC Two.”  SC Two was launched last summer to build stronger, more effective partnerships between federal and local governments.  

The goal of SC Two is to spark economic development in communities that have faced tough challenges over the course of the last decade.But first, let’s look back for a moment, because we’ve already come a long way over the past few years.

  • Back in 2008, our economy was spiraling downward.  Both the stock market and housing market plunged.
  • We were losing 750,000 jobs a month.
  • And Americans were rightly concerned that we could be heading into a second Depression.  

But due to the actions of this administration—the Recovery Act, the bailout of our auto companies, and other tough decisions President Obama made—along with the hard work and resilience of our private sector—we’ve now had 30 straight months of job growth totaling 4.6 million new jobs. That includes more than 100,000 new jobs right here in North Carolina.

Nobody thinks our economy is back where it should be. Growth has been steady, but slow. Unemployment has dropped but it is still too high.

We still have more work to do; but our economy has grown and it will continue to grow.

Our challenge is to make sure that cities like Greensboro lead that growth, create more good jobs, and strengthen economic security for the middle class.

That’s what today’s announcement is all about.

Over the past few years, we’ve been listening to ideas from local officials.  We asked them how we could best help cities that were hit hard in the recession and in the years leading up to it.

Here’s what we came up with:

  • What if we used our combined resources to help cities that were poised to reinvent themselves?
  • What if the federal government and the local government both put some skin in the game?
  • And what if we included an element of competition in order to make sure that our money went to the places that were best able to use it?

The result was the SC Two Challenge. And today we are announcing the first three awards.

I’m pleased to announce that Greensboro is one of the winners—with an award for $1 million from the Economic Development Administration at the Commerce Department. Hartford, Connecticut, and Las Vegas, Nevada, are the other two winners.

Why Greensboro?

We all know that Greensboro had been losing jobs since 2000. But local officials have come to believe that Greensboro—in particular the downtown University District—is ripe for economic development.

So, with $1 million from the Commerce Department along with funds from the City of Greensboro, we’re going to have a good old-fashioned competition to make it happen.

And now, the city is going to put out its own challenge. They’re going to ask teams of experts to look at Greensboro’s future and ask some tough questions:

  • What’s the best way to spur more growth in the heart of one of North Carolina’s largest cities?
  • How can we promote more partnerships among Greensboro businesses, service providers, colleges, and other organizations?
  • And, perhaps most important, how can we ensure that more entrepreneurs and startups can proudly say the words that everyone here wants them to say: “I’m opening up shop in Greensboro”?

So, as the competition moves forward, economic development experts and others will form teams. Those teams will submit their ideas. And, after a couple of rounds of competition and reviews by local officials, the best plan for Greensboro will win.

This is a good start, but the SC Two Challenge is just one of many investments that we need to make right now.

President Obama is calling on Congress to make several other critical investments that will help people in America’s cities. I’ll mention three:

  • First, Congress should pass President Obama’s proposals to help state and local governments keep police officers, firefighters, and teachers on the job.  Many communities are still digging their way out of this past recession—and they need help now.
  • Second, with interest rates this low, we should put construction crews back to work building North Carolina’s roads and bridges. A dozen national studies have described the dangerous deterioration in American infrastructure. Now is the time to address this problem. The president has proposed a National Infrastructure Bank that would help co-fund projects with state and local governments.
  • And third, we need to extend the middle class tax cuts for families making less than $250,000 a year.  This would help 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small businesses.  Unless we extend this tax cut through 2013, a typical middle class family of four would see its taxes rise by over $2,000.  

Overall, we want to ensure that Greensboro’s future is brighter than ever. So we need smart policy actions like the SC Two Challenge and the other investments I just mentioned, but we also need the ongoing hard work, creativity, and entrepreneurship that the American private sector has always provided—including that of the business leaders here today.

So let’s lay the foundation for stable, long-term growth that will benefit families and businesses in Greensboro, throughout the state of North Carolina, and across our great nation.

Today’s grant is one piece of that foundation. Thank you and congratulations again to the City of Greensboro.