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Remarks At Economic Development Administration ARRA Grant Announcement, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

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AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY

Friday, September 25, 2009

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Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke
Remarks At Economic Development Administration ARRA Grant Announcement
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Thank you. I’m delighted to be here.

And I’d especially like to thank Mayor John Callahan for joining us today, who has spent much of the last decade trying to bring good jobs back to Bethlehem, first as a city council member and now as mayor.

We have come together today, up on the mountain in beautiful Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to have a discussion about the future of this great nation.

Our economy is facing difficult times. When President Obama took office eight months ago, many believed we were on the precipice of a second Great Depression.

The need for aggressive action was obvious, yet some preferred the approach of doing nothing—in effect, doubling down on the failed policies of the past.

President Obama disagreed with that approach.

Instead, he took bold steps to rescue our country from the destructive, vicious cycles that threatened the economic security of every American.

The administration's policies brought stability to our financial system and restored confidence in the markets.

We calmed the housing market and helped millions of Americans stay in their homes.

And President Obama worked with leaders in Congress like Senators Specter and Casey, to implement a comprehensive Recovery Act designed to stop the economic freefall, provide immediate tax relief to millions of families and lay a new foundation to make America competitive in the 21st century global economy.

And it’s working.

Job losses have slowed to a third of what they were in January. And leading economic indicators like industrial production, home prices and home sales have turned positive instead of negative.

But this administration also knows that we’ve still got a long way to go.

We of course welcome improvements in GDP numbers and business’ profitability—but we must remember that those are not the sole measure of prosperity.

Millions of Americans are still out of work. Wages remain stagnant. And healthcare costs are still crippling small businesses.

Here in the Bethlehem region, you're being hit especially hard, within unemployment rate over 9 percent—well above the rest of the state.

As far as this administration is concerned, we aren’t in a full recovery until every single American who wants a job can get one. Until that happens, we won’t let up on the gas pedal for a second.

That's why the president is working so hard to lay a foundation for long-term economic growth.

If we want to keep America competitive:

We need to develop new renewable sources of energy.

We need health insurance reform that develops more effective ways to deliver care, reduces costs for small businesses and provides more security for average Americans.

And we need to understand that government alone can't solve all our problems. America's creative thinkers and innovators will lead the way to economic recovery.

The reality is that many of the old backbones of local economies just aren't where the future lies. Pres. Obama is taking historic steps to lay the foundation for the innovation economy of the future.

Earlier this week he laid out a strategy for American innovation that builds on more than $100 billion of Recovery Act funds that support innovation.

You know something about this here in Bethlehem.

This is the middle of what used to be the center of the steel universe in America.

In fact, just about 300 yards from where I'm standing is a building that once housed the base of research and innovation for Bethlehem Steel.

Today, Ben Franklin TechVentures is an award-winning facility that now stands as a leader in Pennsylvania's emerging tech industry, providing space and expertise for tomorrow's leading businesses.

Ben Franklin technology partners focuses on developing technology oriented companies, and helping established manufacturers apply new technologies.

This creates jobs and fosters a favorable business environment for high-growth companies.

The Recovery Act was designed with initiatives like this in mind.

That's why I'm pleased to announce that the Department of Commerce, through our Economic Development Administration, is awarding a $6 million Recovery Act grant to help facilitate the expansion of the TechVentures facility.

Overall, this is the 17th project our EDA has funded in the state of Pennsylvania this year.

This grant will increase Ben Franklin's ability to deliver hands-on support, guidance, and connections to key resources for early-stage technology companies during the economic recovery.

The expanded "green" facility will be a complement to the existing incubator, which invests in young, unproven companies.

The addition will also house a second stage incubator to help already established businesses grow through the introduction of new technologies and best business practices.

This expanded 47,000 square-foot facility will include electronic labs, a conference center and multitenant office space.

On behalf of Pres. Obama, VP Biden and the administration, I'm honored to be here today to announce this Recovery Act investment.

At the Commerce Department, we've acted expeditiously to get Recovery Act funds out to communities where it's needed most, and across the country, we've made vital investments in things like workforce development and training centers, regional business incubators and transportation projects to connect communities to key markets.

The president and vice president have set ambitious goals to move recovery dollars out the door quickly.

With the delivery of today's grant, the Economic Development Administration has developed all of its Recovery Act funds one full year ahead of schedule.

As Pres. Obama has said, with investments like the one announced today, we are planting the seeds of progress for our country, and good paying private-sector jobs for the American people.

But we recognize that were not out of the woods yet.

The only way we will see sustained economic recovery is through old-fashioned American hard work, innovation and entrepreneurship.

President Obama recognizes that and is seeking to harness the inherent ingenuity of the American people.

We must build on a dynamic private sector to ensure that the next economic expansion is solid and broad-based.

We must focus on critical areas where sensible, balanced government policies can lay a foundation for innovation that leads to quality jobs and shared prosperity.

This is a goal we all share for this generation and the next.

And this is an area that I'd like to explore further with you today.

The folks in this room are going to lead the way to economic recovery.

So now I'm going to stop talking and we’re going to open it up to you. We'd like to hear your thoughts and questions. We will do our best to answer them.

Thank you.