As a way to what President Barack Obama considers “fully restoring America’s economic strength,” the Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, has the mission to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting innovation and competitiveness, preparing American regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy.”
In town promoting its programs and policy and gaining insight on economic progress in the Pittsburgh area, EDA officials participated in a round table discussion April 29, attended by area practitioners and stakeholders. Willie C. Taylor, regional director of the Philadelphia Regional Office described Pittsburgh as being at a pivotal point and the backbone of the region along with Boston, Philadelphia, D.C., Baltimore, New York and New Jersey.
The Philadelphia region covers District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, the east coast from Maine to Puerto Rico, the Philadelphia region consists of Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and the Virgin Islands. The EDA also encompasses five other regions with its headquarters based in Washington.
Taylor has been providing managerial oversight for the EDA PRO since April 2008
Committed to making long-term investments that will lead to new jobs, new industries and a renewed ability to compete with the rest of the world, the president has laid out a six-point strategy that Taylor touched on. The EDA investment priorities are: Collaborative Regional Innovation described as initiatives that support the development and growth of innovation clusters based on existing regional competitive strengths. Initiatives must engage stakeholders; facilitate collaboration among urban, suburban and rural (including tribal) areas: provide stability for economic development through long-tern intergovernmental and public/private collaboration; support the growth of existing and emerging industries. Public/private Partnerships, the second priority is outlined as investments that use both public and private sector resources and leverage complementary investments by other government/public entities and or nonprofits. The third, National Strategic Priorities, is an initiative that encourages job growth and business expansion in clean energy, green technologies, sustainable manufacturing, information technology infrastructure, communities severely impacted by automotive industry restructuring, natural disaster mitigation and resiliency, access to capital for small and medium sized and ethnically diverse enterprises, and innovations in science, health care and alternative fuel technologies. He described the fourth point, Global Competitiveness, as investments that support high-growth businesses and innovation-based entrepreneurs to expand and compete in global markets. The fifth priority, Environmentally-Sustainable Development, is described as investments that encompass best practices in “environmentally sustainable development,” broadly defined, to include projects that enhance environmental quality and development and implement green products, processes, and builds as part of the green economy. The last priority, Economically Distressed and Underserved Communities, is explained as investments that strengthen diverse communities that have suffered disproportionate economic and job losses and/or are rebuilding to become more competitive in the global economy.
Other EDA officials present during the round table hosted by Robert Morris University were Tonia Williams, South Atlantic area director and Alma Plummer, Pittsburgh PRO representative.
It was chaired and initiated by Howard B. Slaughter Jr., Ph.D, president and CEO of Christian Management Enterprises, LLC. During the event, Taylor mentioned that he was interested in addressing how the EDA can change or enhance their service delivery; define what their role is; answer if they should be policy or service driven or should they be incentive-based. “We have to strive to work better with our clients,” he said.
The cleaning up of old brown fields, preparing people to participate in the Marcellus Shale project, provisioning of technical assistance, certification of minority and women entrepreneurs, access to capital, partnerships among educational institutions, preparing students academically and to be socially conscious, the provision of business opportunities and resources for the immigrant/refugee population of southwestern Pennsylvania were issues mentioned during the round table discussion.
Recognizing Butler County as the fastest growing area in the region, conversation also touched on corporate headquarters locating in the county, the formation of a consortium of banks and other institutions, the creation of a national equity fund for minority and women business enterprises and having people trained and prepared for upcoming jobs slated for the area. Focusing on the needs of the community, financial literacy, career opportunities, youth involvement and teaming with unions were also topics shared with Taylor.
Roundtable participants were Shawn Fox chief of staff, Dan Onorato; Ruth Byrd-Smith, director, County of Allegheny Minority, Women and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise; David Jamison, Esq., provost, Robert Morris University; Jay Carson, vice president, Institutional Advancement, Robert Morris University; Michelle Smitt, provost’s assistant, Robert Morris University; Rufus Idris, executive director and Ray Parker; president and CEO of the Christian Evangelistic Economic Development Group; Perry O’Malley, executive director, Redevelopment Authority, Butler; Cynthia Cavallucci, Prudential Financial, relationship manager; Charlie Batch,president/CEO, Batch Development; Shawn Taylor, president, Taylor Construction and Development; Daryl Lamar Milliner, director, Paradigm Partners; and Randy Voulokovich, Government Relations, Buchannan Ingersoll and Rooney, PC.
Excited about the dialogue taking place during the round table, Slaughter labeled the forum as informative and necessary. Like Taylor, he considers this region as a key economic driver. “There are economic development opportunities that haven’t been taken full advantage of,” he pointed out. Through Christian Management Enterprises, he said the company is working on multiple projects that will leverage millions of dollars for the region. Landmarks Community Capital Corp. is just one of his clients.
Slaughter and Taylor both participated in the recent Philadelphia Regional Office 2010 Economic Development Administration Regional Training Conference. Slaughter provided the opening keynote address where more than 350 people represented 13 states and th
ree territories. The Hon. Michael Nutter, mayor of Philadelphia and John Fernandez, assistant secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, shared the dais with Slaughter.