Guess blog post by Jay Williams, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development
Shortly after being sworn-in as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development in May, I traveled to Anchorage, Alaska on my first official trip. There, I participated in the National Congress of the American Indiansâ€™ (NCAI) mid-year conference entitled, â€śClaiming our Rights and Strengthening our Governanceâ€ť where I had the opportunity to meet with tribal leaders from across the country and to participate in a focused discussion on the importance of developing modern trust management systems and creating the conditions for economic growth on tribal trust lands.
Building on this engagement, I was honored to be asked to moderate the â€śStrengthening Tribal Economies â€“ Jobs, Energy, Housing, and Infrastructureâ€ť breakout session, a vital component of the White House Tribal Nations Conference that is taking place in Washington this week.
Joined by colleagues representing a plethora of Federal agencies with involvement in the White House Council on Native American Affairs - an interagency working group brought together to tackle the issues that affect Indian Country - we discussed the critical roles that each agency plays in helping build economic and job opportunity in Indian Country. We also heard from tribal leaders on the challenges and opportunities they face and broadened the dialogue about how the Federal government can continue to support their local economic development strategies.
The fact that my first official engagement as EDA Assistant Secretary was with Tribal nations and that I was asked to moderate this critical White House session is not coincidental.
Economic development creates the conditions for economic growth and improved quality of life by expanding the capacity of individuals, firms, and communities to maximize their talents and skills to support innovation, lower transaction costs, and responsibly produce and trade valuable goods and services.
For nearly 50 years, the U.S. Economic Development Administration has partnered with Tribal communities from coast to coast to promote economic development in Indian Country.
During the past five years, EDA has awarded nearly $54 million in assistance to Indian tribes to create businesses, build roads and other infrastructure, and develop their own economic development strategies.
While EDA grants and other Federal investments are removing economic barriers and attracting capital to Indian country, we know there is more work to be done and look forward to a strong continued partnership with our nationâ€™s tribal communities to strengthen tribal economies.
By bringing so many government representatives and Tribal leaders together at the White House Tribal Nationâ€™s Conference, we aim to be more accessible to Indian Country.