WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing, “Oversight of the Economic Development Administration.” Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery.
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for scheduling this hearing today on the Economic Development Administration. I am pleased to join you in welcoming Dr. Fleming, the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development. Today’s hearing is a great opportunity for us to examine the programs at the EDA and to hear from you, Dr. Fleming, as you approach the end of your first year in this role.
“As you all know, EDA supports economic development by providing federal funding to locally-driven projects that spur economic growth and job creation. These investments can serve as a lifeline, especially in economically distressed or moribund communities. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to see firsthand how these investments support projects and create jobs in my home state, Delaware.
“This past September, we welcomed Dr. Fleming to open the new Delaware Innovation Space in Wilmington. In 2017, after Delaware lost thousands of jobs due to plant closures and layoffs, the EDA invested $3 million to support this technology and science incubator. The Delaware Innovation Space is now open for business, helping local entrepreneurs launch their start-ups or get their small businesses off the ground.
“Down on the other end of our state, the Delaware Technical Community College Owens Campus in Georgetown was selected to receive almost $2 million from the EDA. This grant supplemented almost $3.5 million in local investments to build the Automotive Center of Excellence. Now, Georgetown will soon be home to the first diesel mechanic and auto technician training program in the region—a huge win for Sussex County. The Center will offer local students a trade to learn and the opportunity to stay and raise a family in the area, instead of moving away to find good-paying work. It will also give our area dealerships and diesel operators the workforce they so desperately need to succeed.
“To say the least, I am very pleased that we received this assistance from the EDA for these projects in Delaware. We can see the real world impacts of EDA’s investments in our communities.
“However, as we near the release of the president’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2021, it’s worth noting that in the previous three budget proposals, the Trump Administration proposed to eliminate the EDA. I fear the EDA will suffer a similar fate in the upcoming budget proposal—and I think it’s just the opposite of what we should be proposing for the EDA.
“The EDA has not been reauthorized since 2008. As we review the programs at EDA, I believe we must examine how these programs can be improved and expanded to better assist disadvantaged communities, communities of color, and indigenous communities. We also need to examine how EDA can assist those communities that are more vulnerable to the effects of the global climate crisis. We should see EDA as one of the tools in our toolbox to ensure that we are planning and building more climate resilient communities.
“And, finally, our country’s economy is undergoing historic changes. Regardless of its changes in technology, automation, or to address climate change, we have to make certain that we support communities and workers in that transition. As we make changes in national energy policies and industrial practices, we need to both minimize impacts and provide assistance to communities and workers that are affected by these changes. I believe EDA will be a key part of that effort, too.
“Again, I thank the Chairman for calling this hearing today and look forward to hearing from Dr. Fleming about his vision for the EDA now and in the future. Dr. Fleming, again, thank you for being here. I look forward to the work ahead of us to improve and build on programs at the EDA.”