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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.

On August 5th, I had the pleasure of addressing the third-annual White House Economic Development Forum – hosted by SelectUSA, in conjunction with the International Economic Development Council (IEDC). The purpose of the forum is to convene the country’s economic development leaders to discuss economic development priorities and provide the Administration an opportunity to get feedback from these state and local leaders in order to move the economy forward. I challenged them to answer the question “what does a relevant EDA look like?” While I hope that question is one our partners will help us answer, an event I participated in earlier in the day may have helped give me an answer.

I also was privileged to participate in a roundtable with about 20 young, Nigerian Entrepreneurs. The round table was organized by the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Abuja. Julie Lenzer Kirk, EDA’s Director of the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and an accomplished entrepreneur herself, joined me for the roundtable and offered some great advice to the participants. I know that Julie and I were both impressed by the questions raised by the participants joining us via web chat from Abuja. It was the first of, I hope, many such opportunities to come together and discuss issues and best practices.

Put simply, entrepreneurs are central to any discussion of economic competitiveness and future viability. They drive innovation, which is increasingly critical in the global economy. The Obama Administration, the Department of Commerce, and EDA are all committed to supporting entrepreneurs. EDA has made a number of investments to create incubators, accelerators, and other environments that nurture entrepreneurship. Julie’s office is driving many of these efforts, and we will soon be releasing a new funding opportunity that will help local communities support their entrepreneurs. Stay tuned for more info on that!

Also in the coming weeks, the Secretary of Commerce will appoint up to 30 members to the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE). NACIE members will identify and recommend solutions to issues critical to driving the innovation economy, including enabling entrepreneurs and firms to successfully access and develop a skilled, globally competitive workforce. The Council will also serve as a vehicle for ongoing dialogue with the entrepreneurship and workforce development communities, including working with business and trade associations.

EDA is excited to support efforts to blaze new trails in the business world. The global economy may not be the Wild West, but we need pioneering entrepreneurs to lead the way.