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Spotlight: The Greening of Economic Development


A Greener World There was a time where people who wanted to grow their own crops or buy an electric vehicle were on the fringes of society. That has all begun to change. Doing things in an environmentally friendly way has gone mainstream. Restaurants can charge top dollar for serving sustainable foods from local farms, and Tesla can charge $80,000 for an electric vehicle – and people are paying it. LEED certification for businesses and homes has become a sort of status symbol. People are rightly demanding more sustainable and eco-friendly options, and that change is reflected in economic development projects and priorities at the local and federal levels at every step along the way.

The city of Austin, Texas has an ambitious zero waste goal and has undertaken a number of projects in and around the city to meet it. In July 2014, EDA awarded the city of Austin a $1 million grant to help build infrastructure for the Austin [re] Manufacturing Hub, which will allow recyclables to be transformed into new products locally. Currently, many of the recyclable items collected in the city are sent overseas for manufacturing, which uses significant resources for transportation and provides job opportunities for other countries.

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Highlight: Guest Column: Green Infrastructure = Smart Infrastructure


By Mia Colson, National Association of Regional Councils

NARC Logo As population growth continues to expand in suburban and urban areas, many neighborhoods are seeing trees and shrubs replaced by sidewalks and streets.  Increased development leaves less space available for natural landscape.  Inadequate vegetation reaps negative consequences for community livability.  Stormwater runoff, reduced air and water quality, and infrastructure costs all become major issues when plants and trees are taken out of the picture.  Green infrastructure and urban forestry projects provide cost-effective mechanisms for local governments to reduce stormwater runoff, meet environmental goals, and improve community livability. 

Although most people think about green infrastructure for its water quality benefits, green infrastructure has numerous economic benefits, including:

  • Increased Property Values: Green spaces can increase residential home values.  A study in Philadelphia found that when vacant lots were retrofitted with rain gardens and other green infrastructure, surrounding home values increased by up to thirty percent.
  • Reduced Infrastructure Costs: Public expenses for stormwater infrastructure are greatly reduced when relying on green infrastructure for stormwater management.  Green techniques typically cost less than gray infrastructure in cities with a combined sewer system. 
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Success story: Protecting and Sustaining the Walla Walla Watershed


Caption below With much of the west coast experiencing record droughts and even more dire predictions for the future, managing water and natural resources has become a critical priority for many communities. While there are many short-term measures that are being taken to cope with the shortage of rain and dwindling of reservoirs, there are some who recognize the need for longer term solutions. Walla Walla, Washington has been working on this issue since the late 90s. To address challenges and advance solutions,  organizations in the Walla Walla Valley came together to create the William A. Grant Walla Water & Environmental Center (WEC) at Walla Walla Community College as a nexus for the region’s interests, talent and resources dedicated to water management, education and research. The Water & Environmental Center was designed as a space where education, collaboration and partnership would play a key role in addressing issues essential to the sustainability of eastern Washington’s overall economy. By combining research and development that leads to innovative new ideas, while also providing hands-on education to train new workers, the Center offers a place to both generate environmental solutions and spur economic growth that results in well-paid jobs.

Opened in 2007, the initial LEED Silver facility included offices and meeting rooms. In its first year, the Center hosted more than 200 meetings, events and conferences on water, sustainability, and environmental issues, which led to requests for additional space.

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Advancing Rhode Island’s Innovation Economy

Advancing Rhode Island’s Innovation EconomyLast week, I had the pleasure of touring Rhode Island at the invitation of the state’s congressional delegation to see first-hand the collaborative work taking place there to build the next generation of businesses for the region. I was impressed with the Ocean State’s dedicated workers and by the atmosphere of collaboration there. By working together, Rhode Island is capitalizing on its assets and innovation to ensure its global competiveness. 

The Economic Development Administration (EDA) has been, and will continue to be, a proud partner in Rhode Island in advancing American innovation and entrepreneurship.

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EDA: Working to Stop Economic Disaster when Natural Disasters Strikes

Working to Stop Economic Disaster when Natural Disasters Strikes Because of the hard work our communities and regions, our Nation has roared back from a great recession. We have transformed from a struggling economy in which 8 million jobs were lost to a powerful economy that has created 12 million new jobs over the past 60 months.

While there are many success stories to point to across the Nation, some communities experience setbacks that cannot be anticipated or prevented. Natural disasters – for example - do more than wipe out homes; they can wipe out businesses and decimate local economies. That’s why EDA’s regional offices work with communities to help them prepare for and rebound from the economic impact of natural disasters.

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Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership: Leveraging Strengths for a Stronger Future

Charles Shoopman, Assistant Vice President, UT Institute for Public Service On June 23, 2014 I received a letter officially designating the 69-county, four-state DRIVE! for the Future region as one of the nation’s first 12 Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) communities. Serving as the primary contact person for a public-private partnership effort involving more than 15 organizations, I could hardly wait to send copies of the letter to my colleagues. After all, we had invested hour after hour in crafting consensus around a shared work agenda and at least grudging acceptance of a narrative describing that agenda in the context of a 35-page proposal (plus appendices!) that was due in Washington, D.C. by April 14, 2014.

Receiving notification of the designation was exciting, but was simply the beginning of a non-stop effort to actually deploy the ideas we had so painstakingly assembled during the January – April proposal development period. In short, receiving the designation didn’t complete anything; we simply were given an opportunity to go do what it was we wrote we wanted to do!

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Spotlight: Women in Leadership

We’re at an interesting moment in history for women. The debate about “having it all” or “leaning in” versus “opting out” dominates conversations about women’s contributions to the working world. So much is made about how women balance their career and family (or their decision to forgo one or the other), but less is said about the contributions they make to their organizations. March marks Women’s History Month, and EDA would like to take a moment to highlight several prominent female leaders for what they accomplish within their organizations and communities. Let’s all applaud them for what they do instead of debating how they do it.

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Highlight: Guest Column - SAGE Leading Economic Development in San Antonio’s Promise Zone

Jackie Gorman, San Antonio for Growth on the East Side (SAGE) Executive Director As executive director of San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside (SAGE), I’m working in what you could describe as economic development petri dish: an intensive experiment in community revitalization in the newly designated federal Promise Zone on San Antonio’s Eastside.  A subset of our Promise Zone is known as EastPoint. Eastpoint is the only area in the country to receive a Department of Education Promise Neighborhood grant, a Choice Neighborhood Grant from the Department of Housing & Urban Development, and Byrne Criminal Justice grants from the Department of Justice.

SAGE is leading the economic development elements of a highly focused effort to see if an integrated approach combining housing, education and economic development initiatives can significantly improve the quality of life in what has been an economically distressed and underserved community.

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Success story: Wellston’s Next Chapter

Workers getting trained at the MET Center You’ve heard this story a million times. Business locates in American city. Business creates jobs and a boon for the local economy. Life is good until business closes its doors. Unemployment runs rampant. City falls into disrepair. People flee the city. Crime gets bad, which keeps business and people from coming back to city. Sadly for some cities, that is the end of the story. Luckily for the people of Wellston, Missouri, a city located just west of St. Louis, there is another chapter.

In the 1980s, two large employers in the area shuttered their doors. The area began a long economic development process spearheaded by the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, and in 1997 the city opened the MET Center, a strategic partnership created to stimulate the economic self-sufficiency of unemployed or underemployed individuals living in low to moderate income communities of the St. Louis region. The Center provides focused, comprehensive, and accessible career development and assessment services, job training, and transportation assistance.

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How EDA Helps Create Conditions for Economic Success

How EDA Helps Create Conditions for Economic Success A successful harvest depends on the soil, the temperature, and the amount of water the crops receive. Putting together a winning sports team requires talented athletes, strategic coaches, and team members who can work together toward a common goal. Building a successful, resilient economy in a given region or community also requires having the right conditions in place. It’s about having the appropriate infrastructure, supply chains, access to capital, engaged stakeholders, an appropriately trained workforce, and an understanding of the unique assets of the area. Creating those conditions is the core of economic development.

I like to tell people that Washington, D.C. is where I live; Youngstown, Ohio is my home. I understand economic distress on a very personal level, and I understand the importance of the sort of work that the Economic Development Administration (EDA) does each and every day.

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