(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
Today we are holding a hearing on the nomination of John R. Fernandez to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development at the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Mr. Fernandez comes to us today with a significant record of accomplishment. As the Mayor of Bloomington, Indiana, from 1996 to 2003, John Fernandez spearheaded innovative economic development plans that resulted in more than $400 million in private investment and created thousands of new jobs. I believe his experience will benefit EDA – and the communities it serves.
If confirmed for this position, he will be responsible for leading the Economic Development Administration (EDA), an agency whose mission is to help economically distressed communities create good jobs and build strong businesses. During this time of economic recession, we need a strong EDA more than ever.
From providing funding for water and sewer improvements to helping manufacturers and producers become more competitive in a global marketplace, the EDA provides valuable assistance to communities across our nation.
According to EDA, the agency awarded over $1.29 billion in investments from 2004 to 2008. Those investments are expected to create more than 392,000 jobs at an average cost of $2,507 per job. Those Federal dollars also spur large amounts of private sector investment. Over the same time frame, each dollar of EDA funding attracted $33 in private sector investment.
In my home state of California, EDA has provided vital funding for several important projects that are creating jobs and revitalizing communities. For example:
o In 2007, EDA awarded a grant of $2,280,000 to the City of Victorville to convert the former George Air Force Base into a multi-modal airport complex for light, medium and heavy industrial usage. This project is anticipated to create 1,000 jobs and leverage $10 million in private investment.
o In 2008 the EDA awarded a grant of $3,000,000 to the City of Calexico to construct water and street improvements for the Town Center Plaza and an industrial site. These improvements are expected to create 2,804 jobs and $395 million in private investment.
Congress recognized the Economic Development Administration’s unique role in job creation and economic development by providing its Economic Development Assistance Programs with $150 million in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Strong leadership is needed at the EDA to ensure those funds are wisely spent to help economically distressed communities create and sustain jobs.
Mr. Fernandez, I believe your many years of work on economic development issues will serve you well as you take on this challenge, and I look forward to your testimony today.