June 07, 2011

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ADMINISTRATION REAUTHORIZATION

Mr. President, I rise today to speak on the Economic Development Administration and the pending bill before the United States Senate to authorization this program. In both the 111th Congress and this Congress, I was fortunate to work with the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s Chairman and Ranking Member to make improvements to this bill and report it out of Committee and am glad that he Senate is taking up this important measure.

 

As the United States continues to recover from the worst economic recession in decades it is important for Congress to focus its work on legislation to spur economic growth and create jobs. The Senate has consistently taken up measures that focus on job growth and improving America’s economic competitiveness.

 

In February the Senate passed the like the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act with overwhelming support. After that we took up the SBIR bill which despite weeks of work we unfortunately could not reach an agreement on. The Senate’s work on these bills demonstrates the Senate’s commitment to economic growth and job creation.

 

Because these two issues, economic growth and job creation, are top priorities for the American people. The Economic Development Administration does incredibly important work to bring job and business opportunities to underserved communities around the country.

 

The EDA through Economic Development Districts are helping plan and build roads to spread commerce, office parks and business centers for private sector businesses to locate to and expand access to broadband which is so critical to communication in today’s global economy.

 

The Economic Development Administration (EDA) is responsible for promoting job growth and accelerating industrial and commercial development in communities suffering from limited job opportunities, low per capita income levels and economic distress.

As the only federal agency focusing solely on promoting private sector job growth in economically underserved communities, EDA pursues regional comprehensive strategy development, public works, and business loan funds.

In Maryland the EDA, and our state University Centers and Economic Development Districts, are responsible for helping administer public works projects in rural communities on the Eastern Shore and in Western Maryland. These projects have assisted with the region’s commercial needs as well as services to meet the needs of residents.

For example, the EDA has been essential in assisting with the planning and installation of a broadband communications network in Western Maryland.

These investments go toward revitalization, expansion or upgrading of physical infrastructure in order to attract new industry, encourage business expansion, and diversify local economies.  In so doing, EDA seeks to establish foundations that enable communities to develop their own economic development programs for sustained development.

The EDA has an established and proven record of using increasingly limited resources to complete projects in a timely manner that leverages private sector investment.

In my home State of Maryland, EDA has supported more than 33 projects in the last four years that are credited with creating more than 2,547 jobs, retaining 102 jobs, and leveraging $218.7 million in private investment from a $12 million EDA investment. It is important that we provide the EDA with the resources necessary to continue this work.

 

Many of these projects are in the more rural and underserved parts of the state. Most recently EDA provided seed money for two exciting projects on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

 

In Dorchester County, near the town of Cambridge on the Eastern Shore, The EDA is investing more than $600,000 in the renovation and repair of an existing vacant industrial building to be reused by a new manufacturing company that specializes in the production of green products made from recyclable materials.

 

This is an outstanding project designed to reduce waste on multiple levels:

-          Restoring and repurposing a defunct industrial facility.

-          Reducing material waste by making new products out recyclable waste material

-          Saving 103 jobs while creating 20 new jobs.

-          Leveraging more than $600,000 in direct investment in a facility that is expected to generate $6.6 million in private investment once the facility is operational.

-          That means for every federal dollar invested generates $10 in private investment.  

 

The economies of Wicomico, Worcester and Somerset counties have historically been linked to the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Years of Chesapeake Bay impairment has taken its toll on the Bay’s fisheries. Closely linked to the Bay’s impairment is the decline in lowland forest lands, due to development pressures.

 

The effects of these natural resource crises have resulted in decline of jobs in the seafood harvesting and forestry industries on the lower shore. It is a priority of mine to restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay and the natural systems and jobs that support a healthy Bay.

 

I also support the immediate work the EDA is doing now to address the decline in jobs in the traditional industries of the Lower Shore by investing in $853,034 in a workforce and business development center to serve the Lower Shore Counties.

 

Much of the hard work that goes into selecting and developing projects are done by the hardworking men and women on the ground working for the local economic development districts and University Centers. They are the ones with the best understanding of the economic needs of the communities they work in.

 

That is why in committee I worked hard with my colleagues on the Environment and Public Work Committee, including our friend Sen. Bond, to improve the potential resources available to Economic Development Districts to do the necessary planning for economic development projects in their districts.

 

When the Environment and Public Works Committee took up this bill last Congress the issue that my Economic Development Districts urged me to fight for was for increasing the authorization levels for planning grants because they were so useful to the work they were doing and represented a sound investment of federal dollars in the communities that need help the most.

 

Planning Grants provides invaluable matching funds for Economic Develop Districts, Tribes and local communities to pursue regional economic development goals and strategies. 

 

None of the projects that the Economic Development Districts helps administer would be possible without these planning grants.

 

The demands on EDDs have increased significantly due to the current economic downturn, as well as new mandates by EDA and the evolving nature of the global economy. 

 

The scope of the EDDs’ work goes well beyond EDA projects and spans into planning and coordination of rural transportation projects, USDA rural health and water systems projects as well as HUD projects.

 

Without the annual planning investment EDA provides to EDDs, most rural areas would not have the capacity to apply for or administer economic development resources. 

 

The planning and administration work done by the EDDs is the backbone for EDA public works and facilities development projects and would not be possible without the planning grants.

 

I greatly appreciate the time that the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Committee gave to this issue last year and I am very pleased that a bipartisan group of members on the committee were able to work together to incorporate better planning resources into the bill without sacrificing support for EDA”s core public work and economic investment programs.

This is precisely the kind of legislation promoting economic development programs designed to help struggling communities grow business ventures and jobs for their residents. The private capital that EDA programs typically leverage makes these worthwhile investments in our future.

I urge my colleagues to vote for the bill and I yield the floor.