Guest blog post by Matthew S. Erskine , U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development
Today, I had the pleasure of joining U.S. Congressman Nick Rahall at Concord University in Athens, West Virginia to formally announce a major EDA investment to create a new EDA University Center  in Southern West Virginia. Following the announcement, Congressman Rahall and I engaged in a roundtable discussion with regional businesses leaders to discuss strategies to foster local growth and increase regional competitiveness.
Congressman Rahall was instrumental in helping Marshall University, Concord University, and the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing partner and apply to join the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) University Center program–a competitive initiative that awards grants to universities across the country to help make the resources of these institutions available to the economic development community.
Congressman Rahall said, “Placing faith and funding in American higher education is nothing new. In fact, it has a proven track record that continues to be the envy of the world. Not only did our land grant colleges and universities usher in the greatest agricultural economy the world has ever known, the first G.I. Bill equipped the greatest generation with the tools that crafted the world’s largest economy. Our training grounds, workshops, research and product development revolve around an alliance of business, industry and universities.”
The new Southern West Virginia EDA University Center will leverage the EDA investment to provide critical technical assistance to small businesses and advance regional innovation clusters in the energy, chemicals and advanced materials, biometrics and computing, sectors.
I also visited Blacksburg, Va., to tour Virginia Tech University, another new EDA University Center. I was very impressed with the steps that are being taken there to accelerate growth and create new jobs.
As the former Senior Vice President of the Greater Washington Board of Trade and Executive Director of the Greater Washington Initiative, I was thrilled to see the great work happening in the region. During my tenure at the Board of Trade, I worked to position the Virginia, Maryland, and Washington region as a premier business destination.
It is an honor to be able to continue that work in the Obama administration as we work to make strategic investments in regionally-owned strategies that create jobs in places like Virginia and West Virginia.
President Obama’s American Jobs Act will provide much needed resources to support small businesses and entrepreneurs to develop vibrant regional economic ecosystems. Outside experts say this bill can create 1.5 million jobs without adding a cent to the deficit.
I congratulate Virginia Tech and Marshall University, Concord University, and the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing for their winning proposals to establish EDA University Centers in Virginia and West Virginia.