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Economic Trail Blazers

Americans are intrepid by nature. From the first settlers, to the pioneers who tamed the Wild West, we are always looking to chart the uncharted. While there aren’t new lands to explore in our country – NOAA satellites have pretty much covered every inch – there are always new frontiers in business. Entrepreneurs drive the economy forward by pursuing new ideas and ventures or reinventing existing industry.

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Highlight: OECD Looks at Small Business

OECD Logo Large companies may seem to define American culture worldwide, but it is the small business that represents the American identity. Small business helped build this county and is still vitally important to the economy today.

The 2008 global economic crisis generated a major shock to regional and national economies, but the effects were particularly significant for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Even as the country begins to recover, SMEs continue to face serious challenges in obtaining financial support and loans. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) recently published a preliminary report, Financing SMEs and Entrepreneurs 2014, which outlines some of the difficulties facing SMEs, and suggests some key reforms to support these small businesses to strengthen national economies.

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Spotlight: The Privilege of Public Service

Photo of Jeannette Tamayo, Regional Director, CRO I have always wanted to make a difference in low-income communities.

I started my career as full-time as a legal aid attorney during the day and volunteered as a pro bono attorney at night and on weekends. I realized that my work needed to be part of a greater goal, focused on outcomes. While I am not an economic development practitioner, I have worked around the economic development edges for a long time. You cannot address homelessness, joblessness, educational deficits, and a myriad of other issues without addressing the opportunities for gainful employment. When I looked at the federal government as a potential employer, I saw that EDA’s work helps build communities from the bottom up, which made it a logical choice and a natural fit for me.

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Success Story: Making Green Through Bi-National Trade in the Blue Water Region

Image of the Blue Water Region The $700 billion trade relationship between the United States and Canada represents the largest binational trade relationship in the world.  The Blue Water Region of east Michigan and southwest Ontario is home to the Blue Water Bridge, the nation’s third most valuable border crossing, and the only double-stack rail tunnel crossing between Michigan and Ontario. Therefore, the region is immensely important to sustaining the world’s largest trade relationship.  In addition to these transportation links, the region is home to a number of other binational economic assets in the automotive, agricultural, and bio-manufacturing sectors that can be mutually leveraged to diversify and drive the transitioning binational regional economy.

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Q&A: Reflections from EDA Staff

Photo of Millie Hayes, Civil Engineer, Austin Regional Office What drew you to EDA?

In my previous position with the US Department of Transportation, I worked on highway projects in urban metropolitan areas. There, I was asked to serve on national review teams for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Discretionary Grant Program. During that time, I was able to become involved with projects that I wasn’t typically able to provide oversight for, such as mobility and multimodal projects in rural economically distressed areas throughout the country. While working on USDOT’s program, I realized that I was motivated by projects that would improve economically distressed areas. The purposes of the projects struck a chord with me, so I was thrilled to see a civil engineer vacancy for EDA earlier this year that would allow me to use my engineering and environmental expertise to focus on economic development projects. I started working in the Austin Regional Office in early June and I am excited to join an agency with the mission to promote growth in the economy

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Message from Assistant Secretary Jay Williams

U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Jay Williams August marks the one-year countdown to EDA’s 50th anniversary. Over the next year, we hope to find opportunities to highlight EDA’s exceptional history as we look toward its future. So, I hope you will forgive us as we use our August newsletter as an opportunity to look back and look inward. We wanted to share stories from our staff with you – our partners. We hope you will find their thoughts inspiring, interesting, and relevant to your own economic development work.

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Turning around an agency with the least satisfied government workers

Photo of Jay Williams. Photo credit: Byron BuckLast year's “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” rankings listed the Economic Development Administration dead last in employee satisfaction. Since then the agency, which provides investments to help distressed communities spur economic growth, has taken on new leadership in the form of Jay Williams, the assistant secretary of commerce in charge of the EDA. Williams previously served as the executive director of the Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers, and was the mayor of Youngstown, Ohio.

Williams spoke about leadership and his efforts to turn around employee morale at the agency with Tom Fox, a guest writer for On Leadership. Fox is the vice president for leadership and innovation at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, and also heads up their Center for Government Leadership. Their conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

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EDA and the International Economic Development Council Create User-Friendly Tool to Help Communities Recover Their Economy after Disasters

ALT Everyone sees the destruction caused by a natural disaster – the loss of life and property make headlines for weeks. But natural disasters can have lasting effects that don’t garner as much media attention. Beyond property and infrastructure costs, disasters impact the health of the business community. According to the Small Business Administration, as much as 25 percent of small businesses do not reopen after major disasters. Communities need to be prepared for all of the effects of a natural disaster, and there is a new tool available to help them be more resilient.

The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) recently launched "Leadership in Times of Crisis: A Toolkit for Economic Recovery and Resiliency" – a guide to help communities recover their economy after a disaster. The toolkit was funded in part by an Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant and is available for free download at www.RestoreYourEconomy.org. It includes practical resources, proven how-to's, real world case examples, checklists and best practices to implement recovery programs following any type of disaster and to make preparations in order to be more resilient after potential future events.

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Building Infrastructure to Strengthen Environmental Resiliency

Assistant Secretary Williams announces $1 million EDA investment to help build the Austin’s [re]Manufacturing Hub Eco-Industrial Park. (L-R): Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell,  Assistant Secretary Williams, U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett. Environmental sustainability is a priority for the Department of Commerce and EDA. In the last 5 years alone, EDA has made more than 130 investments that support green projects and environmental resilience across the nation. As climate change becomes more pronounced, it is crucial that communities and regions factor in to their strategic plans new development and infrastructure to account for and mitigate the potential environmental impact.

Earlier this month, I had the honor of being joined by Congressman Lloyd Doggett and Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell in Austin, Texas to announce an EDA grant to the city. EDA is investing $1 million to build infrastructure to serve Austin’s [re]Manufacturing Hub Eco-Industrial Park, which will house recycling manufacturing firms and focus on recycling market development.  This grant checks some critical boxes by creating jobs and securing private investment.

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Q&A: Julie Lenzer Kirk, Director, Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, EDA

Julie Lenzer Kirk, Director of the EDA Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Julie Lenzer Kirk was recently appointed by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker to lead the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIE), an office within the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA). In her capacity as Director of the OIE, she is charged with driving programs and policies that support innovative economic development such as innovation-based entrepreneurship and regional innovation clusters. Her passion is infusing innovation and entrepreneurial mindset coupled with action into individuals, communities, and regions to act as a catalyst for economic growth.

Formerly, she was the Executive Director of the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship (MCE) which is an initiative of the Howard County Economic Development Authority. Based in Columbia, Maryland the MCE is focused on igniting the entrepreneurial culture and bringing together the entrepreneurial ecosystem across the state. During her tenure, the MCE quadrupled its client base and saw the creation of new programs such as 3D Maryland, a leadership initiative connecting resources in additive manufacturing; the Conscious Venture Lab, an accelerator focused on Conscious Capitalism; and a technology transfer accelerator in partnership with Johns Hopkins Advanced Physics Lab and other leading research institutions.

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Success Story: CU-ICAR Driving Successful Innovation in South Carolina and Beyond

Concept car interior at CU-ICAR Even if you’ve never heard of Greenville, South Carolina the chances are that if you own a car, what is happening there has affected you. Greenville is home to the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR). The ground-breaking automotive research taking place at CU-ICAR is only part of the story.

Greenville, like much of the region, used to be a textile town. The decline of the textile sector hit Greenville hard. What could have spelled disaster for this charming southern town was instead treated as an opportunity. The local leaders brought together the university and other public and private partners to create what has since become a thriving automotive cluster. BMW located a plant in nearby Spartanburg, and Clemson seized an opportunity to get involved in growing the region’s automotive sector.

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