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Spotlight on Commerce: Alma Plummer, Economic Development Representative for the State of Maryland and District of Columbia, Philadelphia Regional Office, U.S. Economic Development Administration

Guest blog by Alma Plummer, Economic Development Representative for the State of Maryland and District of Columbia, Philadelphia Regional Office, U.S. Economic Development Administration

I serve as the Economic Development Representative for the State of Maryland and District of Columbia at the Commerce Department’s U.S. Economic Development Administration. Specifically, I develop and manage economic development investments in these areas on behalf of EDA. My key role is to solicit, analyze, monitor, and conduct quality assurance of investments that align with EDA’s funding priorities. I cultivate relationships with key businesses, educational institutions, civic community organizations, and local government partners. I also assess regional economic trends, strengths, and weaknesses to identify the highest-impact policy-priority projects in economically distressed regions.

My parents are from South and North Carolina, however, I grew up in Newark, New Jersey. Growing up in Newark heightened my awareness of the lack of investment among distressed communities. Unlike my immediate neighborhood, there was a large faction of deep-rooted blight and under-housed communities that I realized early in my youth needed to be revitalized. As a college student intern with the city of Newark, I had the opportunity to play a significant role in the changing fabric of Newark with pre-development design collaborations focused on major commercial corridors and improved transit hubs.

I graduated from the New Jersey Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Architecture degree while participating in the Urban Planning joint program at Rutgers University. My collegiate education and work experience led me to serve as an architect in the tri-state New Jersey-New York-Pennsylvania region. Working in concert with many multifaceted public and private partnerships and creative financing projects led to a desire to work in economic development. As Vice President of Project Management and Planning at the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), I managed a team of professionals that oversaw a variety of multi-million-dollar economic development projects on behalf of the city of Philadelphia. 

I am currently a 30-year member of the prestigious and international Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and follow its mission to be a ‘Service to all Mankind.’ Currently, I serve on impactful committees that support collegiate scholarships, community grants to small grassroots organizations, youth mentorship programs, community disaster relief, preparedness and recovery outreach, health awareness education, Historically Black College or University connection, and support economic legacy and global impact.

I serve as an Occupation Advisory Council member for the Philadelphia School District and West Philadelphia High School, advising and mentoring educators that advise students that want to pursue career paths in design, architecture, construction trades, and engineering. I also assist with developing curriculum, making technical equipment decisions, arranging student trips and tours, arrange lectures, and preparing students for interviews and in-class presentations.

My Mom’s journey of life’s obstacles, courage, love of family, strength, and determination, and dedication to ensuring her family received opportunities to prosper and grow was the first and will be the last, most influential person to me. As a Newark Ward Leader, she exposed me to various community issues, and I admired her eloquent demeanor in challenging many city leaders to create policy changes. She never sought to stand down when her community was under siege or in financial need of quality of life changes. I hope I have acquired some of her essence.  

History guides our future. When looking back on the role models that laid the groundwork of my life, I pay homage to them each day. Although our Nation observes February as Black History Month, my family, friends, and associates celebrate the accomplishments of long-lost ancestors and our youth of today through daily conversations and various gatherings throughout the year. February highlights generations of tireless fighters that have passed along their strength and struggles.

At the beginning of my Federal government career, I struggled being a civil servant. I thought stringent regulations and limited funding would be burdensome and constricting. However, I was challenged to think creatively, leverage collaborations, and always see benefits before despair. Civil servants are empowered to ensure the public receives opportunities to improve the quality of their lives. I enjoy my role at EDA and the results of the hard work that promotes physical and cultural environmental progression. 

In closing, the following quotes have inspired and continue to inspire both my personal and professional life. These quotes resonate with how to approach some of the hardest decisions and life challenges laid before you.

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” James Baldwin   

“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” Maya Angelou 

In other words, don’t ponder, instead amplify the magic you behold! 

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce African Americans during Black History Month.