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Remarks at Cedar Rapids Convention Center Groundbreaking Ceremony

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank
Remarks at Cedar Rapids Convention Center Groundbreaking Ceremony

Good morning. Thank you, John, and thanks to Mayor Corbett for inviting us here today. It’s great to be in this beautiful city.  I grew up in the Twin Cities, and first came to Cedar Rapids for a High School debate tournament at Coe College.  Our High School team actually won that tournament, so I’ve had a soft spot in my heart ever since for Coe and for Cedar Rapids.

We are here today to celebrate a critical investment in Cedar Rapids, an investment that will make this city home to more businesses and more jobs, and will lay the groundwork for sustainable economic growth for years to come.

The Cedar Rapids Convention Complex, once completed, will become the second-largest convention and events complex in all of Iowa. It’s a project that the Obama administration is excited to support.  In fact, EDA funding for this project represents the largest single grant EDA has ever awarded.

Throughout the very difficult ordeal of flooding, you stood by one another. That’s why I’m proud to be here today to reiterate this administration’s commitment to standing by this community–not just reinvest in Cedar Rapids. . . but to make it stronger than ever with strategic support that will spur sustainable, long-term growth.

The new Convention Center Complex will revitalize a critical piece of local economic infrastructure. It will catalyze additional economic development in the city, create new jobs and serve as a driver of future growth. 

President Obama often speaks of the power that well-conceived infrastructure projects have to stimulate local economies and create jobs in America’s communities.

This project is not going to simply restore downtown Cedar Rapids to what it was before the flooding. It will help revitalize the Cedar Rapids economy so it is stronger and more diverse, and enables Cedar Rapids to play a larger role in the regional economy.

Because right now, too many people in Iowa, and states across America, are out of work. They wonder how they will pay their mortgage or afford their children’s medicine.

This is completely unacceptable–to President Obama and to everyone in this administration who work every day to get our economy back on track. 

We know that no matter what the economic indicators say, this country is not in a true recovery until every American who wants a job can find one.

Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen overnight.  For Cedar Rapids–and for all of Iowa–this economic recovery is going to take time.

Even before the recession hit, America had experienced nearly a decade of anemic job growth. Wages for middle class families flat-lined, while the cost of health care, tuition and housing skyrocketed.

By the time President Obama took office, the economy was in free fall, losing 700,000 jobs his first month in office with banks failing left and right. 

Everyone knows what followed. In the first days of this Administration, we took steps –some of them unpopular – to stabilize the financial system, to keep the American automobile industry from going bankrupt, to pass along a tax cut to middle class families, and to shore up the bottom line of America’s cities and states so that teachers and policemen could keep their jobs.

Ultimately, that included passing 17 different tax cuts for small businesses, the largest temporary investment incentive for manufacturers in the history of the United States and a payroll tax cut that put more money in the pockets of millions of Ohio workers.

The economy has now created more than 2.4 million jobs in the last year and a half. We’re seeing a comeback in manufacturing and new strength in the clean energy sector.  Household debt is back to where it was before the bubble of the 2000s, consumer spending is starting to rise and corporations are making record profits. 

We know, of course, that things aren’t turning around fast enough. And in the coming days, President Obama will announce additional steps to help support job creation and spur the recovery.   

Commerce’s Economic Development Administration is part of the effort to help put more Americans pack to work. It has a vital role to play in helping America’s regions attract investments that make them more innovative, more collaborative and more globally competitive.

Here in Cedar Rapids, EDA just announced that it has awarded $2.9 million to the East Central Iowa Council of Governments to expand funding for a program that gives loans to local businesses. The assistance provided by this fund is helping those still recovering from the 2008 disaster.

The Council expects to create or retain 600 jobs thanks to this new federal investment.

Revitalizing Cedar Rapids with this incredible Convention Center Complex is just one piece of this administration's effort to help get more Americans back to work.

For over a century, this downtown area has been a hub of regional business activity. And it’s critical for Iowa that downtown Cedar Rapids remain an active hub for the next 100 years.

This new Cedar Rapids Convention Complex is an important step in making that happen. I look forward to continuing to work with you as we watch this investment bring economic growth and jobs to the Cedar Rapids community.

Thank you.