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Department of Commerce Launches Regional Economic Research Initiative


Today, the U.S. Department of Commerce is announcing the Regional Economic Research Initiative (Regional Initiative), a new data initiative to improve our nation’s understanding of local regional economies and their ability to compete.

The importance of place has often been overlooked in favor of other ways of studying and growing the economy, which has contributed to the concentration of economic opportunity on the coasts and in major cities. New analysis from the Department’s Office of the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs shows this kind of geographic inequality across regions in the U.S. has increased over the last 40 years. 

“For too long, cities and towns across the country have been overlooked or left behind. Americans deserve to be able to work and thrive in their home communities,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “With the right partnerships and investments, every corner of America can flourish in the modern, global economy. The Regional Economic Research Initiative will use the power of data to identify and catalyze investments to spur economic opportunities across America.”

The Biden-Harris Administration is dedicated to bridging geographic gaps through transformative investments that will revitalize economic growth in lagging or distressed regions. The Department of Commerce has already dedicated billions of dollars towards increasing regional economic competitiveness:

To make sustained change, grow, or revive a regional economy, investors must know what types of investments will work – and what won’t. The Regional Initiative will equip public and private sector decisionmakers at every level – local, state, Tribal, federal – with research and data tools to address entrenched and growing geographic inequality, and better meet the economic needs of those they serve. The Regional Initiative will help identify strengths and weaknesses of regional economies, uncover new opportunities for growth, provide insights into local economic needs, and maximize the impact of regional investments.

“It’s great if people are able to move to places where there’s more economic opportunity – but many people face barriers that make moving difficult or impossible, so they need economic opportunities where they live now,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs Jed Kolko. “Geographic inequality continues to widen, and high-paying sectors remain concentrated in specific places. The Regional Initiative will spotlight those key trends and ensure federal investments are coordinated to close these gaps and improve regional competitiveness.” 

Led by the Office of the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs (OUSEA), the Regional Initiative will develop and disseminate research, accessible data tools and visualizations, and expert services to decisionmakers at every level. Specifically, OUSEA will harness the power of statistical and federal program data sets to:

  • Provide deeper knowledge about regional economies, uncovering unique insights about regions and their needs.
  • Show where past federal investments have been made in local economies.
  • Help decisionmakers determine what types and levels of investment will maximize impact to regions, based on the place’s unique characteristics and what has worked before.

The Department’s top economic advisors and data experts in OUSEA will lead the Regional Initiative and plan to release initial research and data products within the calendar year. OUSEA is charged with setting the data and evidence strategy for the Department and guiding critical economic analysis of the Department’s priorities. The bureau also provides policy direction and oversight to the U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Contact the Regional Initiative team at [email protected].