Good morning. Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing today on the Economic Development Administration (EDA). I am delighted to be here to discuss the reauthorization of this very important agency. EDA and its programs provide vital financial and technical assistance to our nation and to my home state of Vermont.
I am also pleased to welcome a witness from Brownsville, Vermont - James Saudade, the Deputy Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Affairs. He most recently completed seven years as the Executive Director of the Green Mountain Economic Development Corporation and has valuable insight into EDA’s performance in Vermont. Welcome Mr. Saudade.
During the past 10 years Vermont has seen an EDA investment totaling over 13 Million dollars. This investment has created over 750 jobs and leveraged over 89 million dollars of private sector investment in our small rural state. Vermont’s state and local match dollars total $22 million. These are significant economic investments for a small state.
Through regional planning grants and infrastructure project money, the Economic Development Administration has been a vital and willing partner in Vermont’s economic growth. In fact, the last time Dr. Sampson and I were together, we were in the bucolic setting of rural Randolph, Vermont announcing a new business incubator initiative. This initiative represents a wonderful collaboration between the Federal government, higher technical education, and the local Vermont business community.
In addition to commending EDA for its important role, I am here to explore how the agency can do its job more efficiently and effectively despite being hamstrung by budgets below authorized levels and far below the economic development needs of this country.
I am also interested in exploring how EDA’s programs meet the needs of a rural state like Vermont, which suffers not only from high poverty levels and unemployment, but under-employment as well.
We all know the critical importance of innovation and value-added industries. However, where would we be without the preliminary planning process that informs any successful economic initiative?
EDA has an important role to play in supporting planning at the local level. Nationwide, EDA has spearheaded the development of business incubators. Creating a platform for a variety of entrepreneurs to grow small businesses is a great idea. Small business is the backbone of our economy. The statistics tell us that a supported start-up in a business incubator has a far better possibility of success.
I appreciate hearing many more people talk about the fundamental importance of linking research universities to businesses. Ideas need a hospitable environment in which to incubate in order to create new enterprise. Support for University Centers and the technology transfer they foster from the laboratory to the marketplace is very important to our economy. These opportunities result in high paying skilled jobs and prosperity for our citizens. EDA must continue to make workforce development a high priority so that the United States can meet the skill demands of the global marketplace.
Brownfield redevelopment is another area of great interest to me. The state of Vermont has over 2,000 brownfield sites. Only a handful of these have been declared cleaned up. It is my hope that EDA can play a larger role in the economic redevelopment of these brownfield sites in order to diminish the amount of industrial property sitting idle.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for scheduling this hearing at the full committee level. I look forward to hearing testimony from this morning’s witnesses.