Hispanic entrepreneurship is vital to the strength of the U.S. economy. Between 2009-2019 the number of Hispanic business owners in the United States surged 34 percent, compared to a one percent increase for all business owners. From its earliest days, the Economic Development Administration (EDA) has been at the forefront of efforts to develop a dynamic economic environment that provides a solid foundation for Hispanic commercial success.
Beginning today and continuing through October 15, EDA joins other Department of Commerce bureaus in celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month. EDA is committed to ensuring the promise of American prosperity is equitably realized through its investments in projects and initiatives designed to generate new economic opportunities for the United States’ Hispanic communities.
EDA’s $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge is not only a generational investment in place-based economic policy, it is also a significant opportunity for practice-observant research in the field of economic development. To capitalize on this historic moment, this month, EDA’s Research and National Technical Assistance program is announcing two investments designed to stimulate a robust research agenda that will explore, document, and disseminate the lessons, outcomes, and replicable models of the Build Back Better Regional Challenge, helping amplify its impact beyond the regional coalitions awarded federal funding. This grant is funded through EDA’s ARPA Research and Networks Funding Opportunity.
“EDA investments are guided by research,” said Alejandra Y. Castillo, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development.
In June, EDA announced the award of a $4 million grant to RTI International to coordinate and lead a Community of Practice (CoP) dedicated to building long-term connections between the Build Back Better Regional Challenge’s 60 finalist coalitions.
The Build Back Better Regional Challenge is the marquee program of EDA’s American Rescue Plan initiatives. It aims to boost economic recovery from the pandemic and rebuild American communities through the creation or upscaling of regional growth clusters led by coalitions of public and private sector stakeholders.
Workforce development is core to EDA’s mission of driving place-based economic development that results in thriving regions with growing, globally competitive industries. Without a skilled, engaged, and inclusive local talent pool, industries cannot grow, businesses will not invest, and local economies will not flourish.
Creating a virtuous local economic development circle requires building intentional partnerships with strategic industries and key employers around their actual demand for talent and skills. It also requires a simultaneous focus on training, upskilling, and supporting local talent consistent with that demand, ultimately binding these efforts together in transparent pathways to quality jobs.
Carolee Wenderoth came to EDA in 2021 as the Tribal Engagement Coordinator. She is the first person to occupy this new position and serves an advisory role on Tribal issues.
Originally from Montana, Wenderoth is a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. She began her federal career at the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), where she was first introduced to EDA and its mission.
“The Tribal Engagement Coordinator position was described in part as building and expanding relationships among all levels of government with American Indians, Indian Tribes, Alaska natives and other Native communities, as well as national and state economic development corporations," Wenderoth says. “It provoked my interest in joining the EDA, as I felt that this position, coupled with the new American Rescue Plan Indigenous Communities program, would offer me the opportunity to better serve Tribal communities and affect positive economic development.”
On August 3, 2022, the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) announced its award of a $4.6 million grant to Jobs for the Future (JFF) to coordinate and lead a national Community of Practice (CoP) dedicated to sharing best practices, providing technical assistance, and extending professional networks among the $500 million Good Jobs Challenge’s grantee organizations announced earlier on August 3.
In managing the CoP, JFF will foster collaboration among grantees to increase and strengthen networks to fortify the connection between workforce and economic development professionals; provide access to subject matter experts, coaching and technical assistance to individual awardees on building workforce systems and sector strategies; curate a regular cadence of data-sharing workshops; coordinate with grantees on the development of program impact measurement methods; and convene quarterly and annual convenings among grantee organizations to enhance interorganizational networking and to share field-informed innovation.
Ernest Weston, Jr. is the Tribal Economic Development Representative (EDR) in the Denver Regional Office, the first Tribal specific EDR role within EDA. He came to EDA in 2021, at a time of historic funding opportunities made available through the American Rescue Plan. A key component of that is the Indigenous Communities program, which allocated $100 million specifically in grants to Indian country.
“I wanted to be a part of this historic time and put my skills to use by helping EDA build a stronger relationship with our Tribal stakeholders and partners,” Weston said. “I truly believe in public service to our communities and future generations, and I felt that this was an avenue to do so.”
Weston represents EDA to over 34 Tribal nations spanning ten western states. He is currently conducting outreach to many of those nations unfamiliar with EDA, its mission and its programs. It is that aspect of his position that he finds most rewarding, as he enjoys connecting with people and communities and listening to their stories.
For 56 years, EDA has dedicated its efforts to provide resources and support that advance economic development across the country. Our mission is to establish a foundation for sustainable job growth and build resilient regional economies across all corners of the nation.
To achieve that goal, EDA recognizes that innovation and collaboration are key drivers of successful economic development. The best outcomes occur when organizations and leaders across communities work as one team to align resources and capacity from academia, industry, and philanthropy to drive a region forward. This same spirit of regional collaboration is one reason why our agency invests in long-term support for grantees through national Communities of Practice that strengthen America’s economic development infrastructure by capturing, organizing, and scaling practices at the national level.
Expanding on the achievements of a half-century of progress, over the last decade, the LGBTQI+ community has made significant strides in becoming more integrated into American civic life. In the U.S. Department of Commerce, as many as 7.1 percent of employees may identify as members of the LGBTQI+ community, on par with one recent estimate of the nation’s total LGBTQI+ population.
While substantial achievements in a more equitable United States have been made, work remains to be done to ensure the promise of American prosperity is experienced as widely as possible. In his proclamation of May 31, President Biden called on Americans to “confront the disproportionate levels of poverty, homelessness, and unemployment in the LGBTQI+ community.”
Last week, the United States hosted the Organization of American States’(OAS) ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, California, for the first time since 1994. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo was a senior member joining the U.S. Department of Commerce delegation to the historic summit. While there, President Biden announced the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity, a historic new agreement to drive the hemisphere’s economic recovery and growth.