WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday, June 21, 2023, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing to examine state and local perspectives on reauthorization of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA).
Below is the opening statement of Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:
“Today, we will hear from state and local officials on the reauthorization of the U.S. Economic Development Agency.
“To our witnesses—Ms. Cannon, Mr. Fetzer, Commissioner Higgins, Mr. Graney, and Mr. Day—thank you all for joining us today to share your perspectives on EDA’s programs. We look forward to hearing what the EDA is doing well and what improvements might help the agency work even better.
“Before we hear from our witnesses, I‘d like to share my thoughts on the EDA and why I think it’s important for Congress to reauthorize this vital agency.
“Under the umbrella of the Department of Commerce, EDA leads the federal government’s economic development agenda. EDA helps bring job growth and economic opportunity to distressed communities in every region of our country. Additionally, EDA promotes innovation and competitiveness in local and regional economies across America to help them succeed in the global marketplace.
“As members of this committee have heard me say before, I represent a state that, much like a prizefighter, punches above its weight in terms of its contributions to the U.S. economy. The same could be said about EDA. This small agency packs a big punch and makes an outsized impact across our country.
“Despite all of the exceptional work that EDA has done in every one of our states, the agency has not been reauthorized by Congress since 2004—nearly two decades ago. That’s too long for an agency with such an important mission to go without renewed authorization.
“Let’s think about the many ways that our workforce and our economy have changed since 2004. We have witnessed technological advances that have transformed the way that we live, the way we work, and even the way we travel. We have also seen significant changes in manufacturing, in energy production, and in the products we use on a daily basis.
“For example, the iPhone was first released in 2007—three years after EDA was last reauthorized. Broadband internet, which only limited households and businesses had access to in 2004, has become a necessity in our daily lives and work. In addition, businesses are experiencing new challenges, as well new opportunities, such as how to operate more sustainably on a warmer planet.
“Through reauthorization, we have an opportunity to modernize and improve EDA’s ability to foster additional economic growth.
“Why is this so important? Well, let me paraphrase President Abraham Lincoln when I say that the role of government is to do for the people what they cannot do for themselves.
“Some communities across our country are struggling with how to navigate today’s economy. Over the past two decades, a number of factory towns have seen their last plant close and are seeking to attract new industries. In addition, cities are looking to reinvent themselves to compete on a global scale. EDA can play a role in helping communities turn their economic adversity into opportunity.
“As many of you may have heard me say, when I had the privilege to serve as governor of Delaware, our state created more jobs than in any other eight-year period. In truth, I did not create a single one of them. Governors don’t create jobs, senators don’t create jobs, mayors don’t create jobs, and not even the EDA creates jobs. But, what we can do by working together is create a nurturing environment for job creation.
“There are many aspects to creating such an environment. They include workforce development, infrastructure, access to capital, research and development, protection of intellectual property rights, and broadband deployment—to name a few. EDA plays an important role in supporting programs in each area that I just mentioned.
“I’ve also had the opportunity to witness firsthand EDA’s work in my home state of Delaware, and I’m sure that many of our colleagues on this committee have, as well.
“For example, EDA helped fund a Center for Automotive Excellence at the Delaware Technical Community College in Southern Delaware. This center has helped fill a need for trained automotive technicians to work at our car dealerships and maintain the heavy-duty trucks that are vital to our poultry industry.
“Delaware also received funding from EDA to help our travel and tourism sector—one of our states largest economic drivers—during the pandemic.
“As we will hear from our witnesses today, EDA has an impact in communities large and small, in urban areas as well as rural ones. I look forward to working with our colleagues on this committee to ensure that EDA has the necessary tools to help those communities punch above their weight—just like it has helped Delaware do.”