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Remarks at the International Economic Development Council

Monday, April 15, 2013

Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank
Remarks at the International Economic Development Council

One of the best parts about working at the Commerce Department over the past four years has been the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people.  I’m particularly appreciative of folks like all of you here today. 

You’ve put in long hours to help your communities – and our nation as a whole – recover from a deep recession.  You’ve fostered an environment where entrepreneurs and businesses can not only survive, but grow and thrive. And you have served as a crucial catalyst for turning good policies into good jobs.

It’s your passion to improve things that has helped lead us to where we are today. We’ve had three years of steady economic growth. Our private sector has created nearly 6.5 million jobs. Our housing market is healing, both in terms of housing values and housing starts. Consumer spending – responsible for two-thirds of our economy – is starting to come back. And U.S. exports – the things that are made in your communities that foreigners want to buy – hit yet another all-time record in 2012 - $2.2 trillion! (I think that deserves a round of applause.)

And our partnership continues to be crucial.  The Commerce Department and the IEDC community have already worked closely together to help communities regain their footing. For example, our Economic Development Administration and IEDC have helped the Gulf Coast recover and become more resilient in the wake of the BP oil spill. And, more recently, many of you have stepped up to lead regional efforts to boost exports through the Metropolitan Export Initiative, a joint effort we’re undertaking with the Brookings Institution.

As we look further ahead, there is even more work to do. 

In particular, as the President said in his State of the Union address, we must make sure that America is a magnet for good jobs and investments in manufacturing.

As I highlighted at your conference last fall in Houston, U.S. communities are well-positioned to attract new business investments in the coming years due to a number of trends: low domestic energy costs and a stable supply of energy; a rising U.S. competitive edge in labor costs and productivity; growth in consumer spending and in our overall economy; and our longstanding strengths in America, such as having the world’s top research institutions and strong intellectual property protections. 

So, we should be doing everything we can – right now – to make the most of this period that we are entering. 

I’ll give two examples of how the President’s new budget for Fiscal Year 2014 proposes to do just that.

First, the President is calling for the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership – the IMC – which will be led by the Commerce Department.  Through IMC, we will support communities that want to attract manufacturing investment by helping them create an attractive local industrial ecosystem.

How will we do that? 

With $113 million in funding support from our Department – leveraged with funds from other public and private sources – we will co-invest in key projects that can make a big difference in attracting manufacturers and supply chains. 

Projects could include a new research or tech transfer program, a major physical infrastructure improvement, or a workforce development initiative.  And, importantly, the federal government will align its resources to support these communities in a coordinated way.

But make no mistake.  For efforts like this to be successful, they must be led by people like you at the local level. You’re the key. You’re the ones who can bring the community together to craft a long-term, strategic plan – a plan that will build the economic infrastructure that will attract today’s manufacturers.

In short, we need leaders who are ready, willing, and able to reinvent their local economy in order to compete globally for manufacturing investments. 

So, I challenge you to take full stock of your community’s comparative advantages, and develop action plans that will appeal to CEOs who are looking for fertile ground on which to build. 

I predict that such plans will be valuable regardless of whether your community gets funded through IMC funding opportunities, the first of which will be announced in the near future.  Stay tuned.

At the same time that we are working with your communities on the ground through IMC, we also need to step up our international outreach. Firms and investors around the world need to know that there has never been a better time to invest in the U.S.

That’s why a second request in the President’s new budget is to fully support SelectUSA.  And I’m so pleased that SelectUSA and IEDC signed a Memorandum of Agreement to partner this year on several activities. 

As some of you know, through SelectUSA, our commercial service officers based abroad are helping foreign businesses learn more about investing in cities and regions like yours.

On average, our competitor nations’ governments are now providing over $50 million a year on their own programs to bring investments to their shores. The President is proposing $20 million for SelectUSA, because we can’t risk falling behind.

SelectUSA will continue to work at the national level to empower mayors, governors, and folks like you who increasingly find yourselves competing with a foreign city or country for investment dollars. 

And today, I’m pleased to announce plans for the first-ever SelectUSA Investment Summit to be held here in Washington on October 31 and November 1.  We will bring together economic development leaders from across the U.S. with investors from around the world.  So, mark your calendars, and keep an eye on for more information.

In closing, our objective is clear.  

Let’s position American communities to win more investments and more jobs by building on the strengths that are making our nation a powerful magnet for manufacturing.

After all, when companies choose to build and expand in U.S. towns and cities, our middle class will grow stronger, our economy will thrive, and the next generation will see good jobs in their future.

Thank you, again, for this great honor.  I look forward to seeing the close partnership between the IEDC and the Commerce Department continue to flourish for many years to come.