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Remarks by Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross at EDA Grant Announcement for City of Petersburg in Petersburg, Indiana

AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY

Introduced by R.C. Klipsch, Mayor of Petersburg

Thank you, Mayor Klipsch for that kind introduction and for welcoming us to the City of Petersburg. And my thanks to Lisa Gehlhausen of the Indiana 15 Regional Planning Commission, Clint Roos of Midwestern Engineers and Ashley Willis of Pike County Economic Growth & Development for joining us this afternoon.

Believe it or not, I am not the first U.S. Cabinet Secretary to visit Petersburg. That honor goes to, Secretary of State John Foster, who served under President Harrison from 1892 to 1893, and was in fact, born here. Prior to his role in the Harrison Administration, he earned a reputation for being tough and quick-witted while fighting in the Civil War. He joined the Army as a major, rose to the rank of colonel, and fought in the crucial Knoxville Campaign under General Burnside. Foster’s troops were the first to enter Knoxville, Tennessee during the Campaign, and they aided the successful defense of its strategic position against one of Robert E. Lee’s most formidable commanders, Lt. General James Longstreet. Later while serving as Secretary of State, Foster negotiated myriad trade agreements in the Western Hemisphere.

I can see that you all in Petersburg embrace his spirit of resilience. It is no doubt that it drove your perseverance when a deadly tornado outbreak devastated your community in 1990. And again during the economic disruption resulting from a downturn in the coal and power industry.

And, along with the President’s focused economic stimulation through deregulation, tax cuts, and job growth, it is what will advance your regional economy through recovery in the wake of this year’s COVID-19 pandemic.

So I am pleased to be here with you today to celebrate Petersburg and witness the work that you are doing to respond to fluctuations in the coal industry and to support business growth here.

Despite the economic impacts we’ve felt coast to coast as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, growth is returning. In August more than 88,000 Indianans went back to work. And employment in the state is steadily increasing, with more than 485,000 workers returning to their jobs between April and August.

Moreover, Indiana’s unemployment rate is 1.5 percent below the national average. Pike County is doing even better that the rest of Indiana and the Nation, with unemployment dropping to 2.5 percent below the national average. Your region, like much of the United States, is in the midst of economic resurgence, due in no small part to your leadership and dedication to your community.

That is why I am pleased to announce that the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration is investing $4.2 million in the City of Petersburg to further invigorate your local economy. The grant will also be matched with $2.8 million in loan funds from USDA Rural Development, and is expected to create or retain nearly 100 jobs and spur $19.6 million in private investment.

The EDA grant will be used to improve the city’s water supply infrastructure with a new well, treatment facilities, storage tank, and distribution systems. In addition, the expanded water system will serve an 8,000-acre Southwest Indiana Megasite, located 1 mile south of Petersburg on Interstate 69.

As others have earlier discussed, this Megasite, along with updated water infrastructure, is essential for business development, and will attract other transformative investments to Petersburg and Pike County. This water infrastructure project was made possible by the regional planning efforts led by the Indiana 15 Regional Planning Commission. Indiana 15 is funded by EDA with the aim of strengthening the regional economy, supporting private capital investment, and creating jobs.

I am also pleased that this project will transpire within one of Indiana’s 156 Opportunity Zones. The Opportunity Zone initiative was created by President Trump’s 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to provide a unique investment vehicle to transform distressed communities.

To date, the Department of Commerce has invested nearly $654 million in more than 480 Opportunity Zone projects across the country. These numbers continue to grow thanks, in part, to today’s grant. We will look forward to the groundbreaking of this project, and to watching your region flourish even more.

Now before I close this afternoon, I would be remiss if I did not mention how essential it is for everyone to complete the Census. The Census Bureau is part of the Department of Commerce.

To date, Pike County’s self-response rate is 69.4 percent. And 68.2 percent of residents in the city of Petersburg have self-responded so far. You are closing in on Indiana’s average self-response rate of 70.1 percent. You can do it!

The results of the Census will determine the allocation of trillions of dollars in federal funding over the next ten years. The results of the Census last for ten years. The disbursal of future housing, healthcare, and educational funds are all determined by the 2020 Census.

We don’t want Pike County and Petersburg to be short-changed. So please, please respond today at 2020Census.gov. It takes only about six minutes to fill out the form, and it will pay dividends to your community every year for the next ten years.

Mr. Mayor, I urge you and everyone here to engage with your workers, your community organizations, and your local governments to stress the importance of going online and filling out the form. Self-responding online also saves an enumerator a trip to your home to administer the Census in-person.

You may not know that I was once a census-taker in 1960 while I was still attending college. It was one of my very first jobs, so as you can imagine, the Census effort remains close at heart for me.

This year, we have a 99.6 percent national total response rate, and more than 145 million total households have been counted in the 2020 Decennial Census so far. I hope I’ve encouraged those of you who haven’t responded yet to do so today at 2020Census.gov.

Thank you again for welcoming me to southwest Indiana. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Now, I’d like to call Mayor Klipsch back up here to accept this well-deserved grant of $4.2 million for the new water infrastructure project here in Petersburg. Congratulations!

 

Leadership