A successful harvest depends on the soil, the temperature, and the amount of water the crops receive. Putting together a winning sports team requires talented athletes, strategic coaches, and team members who can work together toward a common goal. Building a successful, resilient economy in a given region or community also requires having the right conditions in place. It’s about having the appropriate infrastructure, supply chains, access to capital, engaged stakeholders, an appropriately trained workforce, and an understanding of the unique assets of the area. Creating those conditions is the core of economic development.
I like to tell people that Washington, D.C. is where I live; Youngstown, Ohio is my home. I understand economic distress on a very personal level, and I understand the importance of the sort of work that the Economic Development Administration (EDA) does each and every day. In fact, I worked closely with EDA during my tenure as Mayor of Youngstown, and I saw first-hand how the agency was able to help us implement our plans to transform our economy. Today, Youngstown is experiencing a renaissance, a renewal beyond what most would have thought possible. The same thing is happening in towns all across the country, and I am looking forward to taking the lessons I learned in Youngstown and applying them to help other communities.
EDA is a small agency by federal government standards, but it has a critical mission and makes a big impact. We work with communities to implement their locally owned strategies to strengthen their economies and create jobs by building capacity. Some communities need help developing a plan and figuring out where to start their efforts. Others need critical infrastructure that will allow business to locate or expand operations. It’s a continuum, and EDA helps communities at every point along the way. Through our various grant programs, EDA funds communities across America to help strengthen their economies. We also have developed a variety of tools on new and emerging economic development concepts that communities and economic development organizations can use to make more informed development decisions. In short, EDA helps to create the conditions in which private investment is generated and jobs are created.
There are numerous examples of successful EDA grantees across the country – communities that were crippled by high unemployment or low GDP, but with solid development plans and assistance from EDA have become booming centers of business and innovation. They include towns as diverse as Conover, North Carolina; Brighton, Colorado; Petersburg, Virginia; Rochelle, Illinois; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Fairbanks, Alaska. As the country continues to recover from the great recession, economic development work is more crucial than ever to the long-term health of the country’s economy.
While most people know us as a grant making organization, that is only part of what we do. EDA is proud of our network of economic development representatives and specialists who work hand-in-hand with communities across the country to help them at each step of the economic development process.
Helping with strategic planning, developing infrastructure, or establishing a business incubator may not grab national headlines. But it is those small investments that enable companies to locate or expand existing businesses in an area.
While EDA plays a key role, ultimately it is up to our communities and regions to think strategically to capitalize on their strengths, to collaborate broadly by bringing all of the key players to the table, and to identify the physical infrastructure needed to ensure success.
Economic development efforts matter. As Oscar Wilde once said, “Success is a science; if you have the conditions, you get the result.” EDA helps create the conditions, so local economies across the country can get the result.