Thank you, Chairman Boxer, for holding this hearing on the Economic Development Administration. Oversight is an important function of our Committee, and with reauthorization of the agency several months overdue, as well as a more than tripling of funding over the past year through regular appropriations, disaster-related supplemental funding and stimulus bill funding, an oversight hearing now is very timely.
I would like to welcome our witnesses, especially LaVern Phillips, President of the Woodward Industrial Foundation in Oklahoma. I visited the city many times, including just last week. I also want to note that I understand that Mr. Phillips and the rest of Woodward will be welcoming former President George W. Bush to the city to celebrate the 4th of July this year.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with state and local interests to begin addressing several infrastructure needs for Northwest Oklahoma and the Panhandle. For example, WRDA 2007 authorized water and waste water treatment related infrastructure, including $1.5 million for Woodward, $16 million for Guymon and $275,000 for Oklahoma Panhandle State University. We were able to secure funding for transportation improvements as well, including $6.4 million to construct a viaduct on US Highway 270 over the railroad tracks in Woodward and $1 million to widen US Highway 54 from north of Optima to the Kansas state line. I intend to continue working with dedicated professionals like Mr. Phillips to improve the infrastructure, and therefore the economic viability and quality of life, of this area.
One of my trips to Woodward was last August for a $1 million EDA check presentation that will help build the Woodward Community Campus. I will let Mr. Phillips talk more about the details of the project, but I would like to mention that I very much support this project and was pleased to see it recognized for funding by EDA.
The Woodward project is a recent one in a long line of smart and incredibly beneficial investments EDA has made in Oklahoma. In fact, over the past six years, EDA grants awarded in my home state have resulted in more than 9,000 jobs being created or saved. With an investment of about $26 million, we have leveraged another 30 million in State and local dollars and more than 558 million in private sector dollars.
That’s real economic development with real jobs. I only wish more of the so-called “stimulus” bill had been dedicated to programs like EDA that are truly successful at spurring economic development.
My belief in EDA’s success is not just anecdotal either. Studies show that EDA uses federal dollars efficiently and effectively, creating and retaining long-term jobs at an average cost that is among the lowest in government. Today’s hearing gives us an opportunity to discuss possible tools to improve performance even further during the reauthorization process.
The EDA=s authorization expired on September 30, 2008. I am concerned that the lapse in authorization may leave the agency vulnerable to funding cuts during this appropriations cycle and more generally result in uncertainty for the agency as well as the struggling communities that depend on its assistance.
I had introduced a reauthorization bill in July 2008, and this Committee reported a bipartisan bill in September. Unfortunately the bill was never enacted. In February of this year, I again introduced a bill to reauthorize and improve EDA’s programs.
Madam Chairman, I hope that this hearing is the first step in our Committee again reporting an EDA reauthorization bill and this time seeing it through to enactment. I look forward to working with you and our colleagues to accomplish that task as soon as possible. Thank you.