Thank you, Senator Cardin, for chairing this hearing on a very important topic. I wish we had turned to this topic earlier in the year, because I am concerned that this late start means we may not have time to actually enact EDA reauthorization – such as my bill, S. 3264 – before the current authorization expires this month. Regardless of timing, though, I am glad we are having this hearing, and I am especially pleased to welcome Mayor Larry Thoma of Elgin, Oklahoma .
I was in Elgin last month for a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new facility at the Elgin Industrial Park that would not have been possible without EDA investment. I will let Mayor Thoma talk about the details of EDA involvement and what it has meant to Elgin, but I consider this to be just one of the numerous examples of the good work EDA has accomplished working with communities struggling with economic distress to bring in private investment and jobs in my home state of Oklahoma, as well as all across the country.
I joined EDA in August in presenting a grant to the city of Woodward to help build the Woodward Community Campus. This project will lead to 192 jobs and $1.6 million in private investment. Another recent EDA grant will benefit the city of Watts, Oklahoma, and Adair County by supporting the construction of infrastructure improvements to accommodate the development of a new state-of-the-art plastic recycling and composite building material manufacturing facility.
Since the fall of 2004 when we last reauthorized the agency, EDA investments in Oklahoma include support for industrial park improvements in Ardmore and Hobart, intended to generate more than $6.6 million in private investment in Ardmore and help create 120 jobs in Hobart .
We saved and created new jobs in Clinton with water system improvements necessary to provide fire suppression protection for residents and current and prospective businesses. We paved the way for thousands of new jobs in Oklahoma City by helping provide the infrastructure necessary for a new Dell service center.
EDA assisted the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma fund construction of an assembly facility for a next generation tactical vehicle trailer for the U.S. Marine Corps in Durant, Oklahoma . Also in the Durant area, EDA funds were used to create additional space to manufacture and assemble goods in an expanded Foreign Trade Zone.
Additionally, many of the economic development districts in Oklahoma have received EDA grants to provide valuable planning and technical assistance to help communities build local capacity to focus on long-term economic and social challenges. These planning grants can be critical in particular to small, rural communities which often cannot otherwise afford to maintain this professional and technical capacity.
Taken all together, EDA’s public works and economic adjustment grants awarded in my home state over the past five and a half years have resulted in almost 9,000 jobs being created or saved. With an investment of about $24.6 million, we have leveraged almost 29 million in State and local dollars and more than 433 million in private sector dollars. I would call that a wonderful success story.
These numbers are backed up by studies that 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 is set to expire just three short weeks from today, on September 30, 2008. I am concerned that allowing this authorization to lapse will result in uncertainty for this very successful agency and the struggling communities that depend on its assistance. I recently spoke with Congressman Jim Oberstar, Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; we both agreed that we need to work together to get this done before Congress recesses or adjourns this month, and we both believe that we can get it done if we work quickly and together. I look forward to working with my colleagues here on the Committee and in the House, as well as with the Administration and interested stakeholders, to reauthorize EDA as soon as possible.