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Thursday, June 1, 2017

EDA announces new rounds of funding opportunities for entrepreneurs and EDOs

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

On May 10th, 2017 the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) today published the Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for its 2017 Regional Innovations Strategies (RIS) program with $17 million being made available to help spur innovation capacity-building activities in regions across the nation. Under this competition, EDA is seeking applications for two separate funding opportunities: the i6 Challenge and the Seed Fund Support (SFS) Grant competition.

  • The $13 million i6 Challenge helps entrepreneurs overcome barriers in building new companies and creating jobs by supporting the creation and expansion of programs that increase the rate at which innovations, ideas, intellectual property, and research are translated into products, services, viable companies, and, ultimately, jobs.
  • The $4 million Seed Fund Support (SFS) Grant Competition provide early-stage companies with funding for technical assistance and operational costs that support the planning, formation, launch, or scale of cluster-based seed funds that will invest their capital in innovation-based start-ups with a potential for high growth.

Prospective applicants are encouraged to refer to the Notice of Funding Availability on grants.gov for more details. The application period will close June 23, 2017.

On May 12th, 2017, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced the availability of funding for the FY 2017 International Engagement Ready Communities Competition. This $600,000 program seeks to help drive foreign direct investment (FDI) in U.S. communities with diverse economic development needs by enhancing their FDI attraction and export promotion efforts. The program also seeks to reduce resource constraints on economic development organizations (EDOs) that focus on investment promotion.

Through this program, EDA, SelectUSA, and the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC) will support empirical research on successful international engagement strategies and develop best practice reports and a competitiveness assessment tool. These elements will be incorporated into a user-friendly EDO toolkit and training guide to help local communities assess and increase their ability to become globally competitive while enhancing their trade and FDI promotion activities.

Eligibility is open to organizations engaged in economic or infrastructure development opportunities, including state and local governments, Tribal organizations, institutions of higher learning, and other related public or private organizations or associations.

Grant applications are due by June 12. For more information about how to apply, visit: https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=293705, or contact: RNTA@eda.gov

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

NAWB launches online learning program to enhance workforce development

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

On May 9th, 2017, the National Association of Workforce Boards (NAWB) and their network of American Job Centers announced the launch of Study Workforce, an online learning platform to support workforce board members, workforce development professionals, elected officials, and agency staff seeking to build their knowledge and skills in the workforce development sphere.

The Study Workforce platform is designed to help professionals involved in the workforce development arena to understand how the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) can be leveraged in support of a workforce and economic development agenda that builds communities and benefits constituents. Understanding how the workforce development system functions under WIOA can help professionals meet their goals of improving the lives of residents through education and job training, and enabling economic success and business competitiveness.

NAWB is a membership organization and advocate for more than 550 workforce development boards. The Study Workforce project was funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

New analytical tools released to assist economic developers

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

On April 20, the Census Bureau has released the 2015 County Business Patterns, which provides detailed annual information on the number of establishments, employees, and first quarter and annual payroll at the national, state, county, metropolitan, congressional district, and five-digit ZIP code levels for nearly 1,200 industries. County Business Patterns debuted 71 years ago and has been published annually for the past 51 years. County Business Patterns data can be accessed by using multiple tools available via the Census Bureau website, including American FactFinder, QuickFacts, Census Business Builder, and My Congressional District.

In addition, USAFacts is a new data-driven portrait of the American population, government finances, and the government’s impact on society. The site relies on data from over 70 government agencies in order to present reliable, current data for use by various users, including economic developers.

The Economic Development Administration (EDA) has also recently updated numerous data tools for economic developers. In partnership with businesses and universities through its Research and National Technical Assistance program, EDA develops and promotes instrument that help communities develop strategic plans, locate and evaluate regional clusters, as well as explore existing innovation capacity.

The StatsAmerica Innovation Index 2.0 Tool is one of the instruments providing economic developers a quick and easy way to calculate whether a country, region, or neighbourhood meets EDA eligibility threshold for unemployment and income. This tool delivers an easy-to-compare method of assessing the innovation capacity of a region with data on: human capital, economic dynamics, productivity and employment, and well-being. The updated 2.0 tool expands on the original index by adding more than 50 new measures, such as an ability to account for regional knowledge spillovers, technology diffusion, and foreign direct investment.

Another tool that offers significant support to businesses, policy makers, academics, and economic developers is U.S. Cluster Mapping and Registry Tool. Funded by EDA and created in partnership with the Harvard University’s Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness, the U.S. Cluster Mapping tool is a national initiative that provides data on regional clusters and economies to support U.S. business, innovation and policy. The site also provides a cluster registry where cluster organizations can connect with key businesses, both up and down supply chains, in their respective regions to help advance cluster initiatives.

Together, these analytic tools offer comprehensive data and analysis that can inform stakeholders’ collective action and can guide complex decision-making at the regional level by identifying region’s capabilities, challenges, and potential.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

FEMAís disaster deductible proposal raises concern

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has recently announced a proposal to implement a “disaster deductible” that would require states to satisfy an insurance-like deductible before receiving Public Assistance funding from the federal government to repair and rebuild damaged infrastructure after major disasters. After receiving initial comments from stakeholders in 2016, FEMA released the second iteration of the proposal in January 2017 to solicit further feedback.

The state deductibles would range from a high of nearly $53 million for California to a low of $1 million for Alaska, Vermont, and Wyoming. FEMA claims that states could cut their deductibles and earn “credits” by adopting and enforcing activities that support readiness, preparation, mitigation, and resilience. That would include things like revising building codes in areas prone to flooding or reducing dense brush and invasive plant species where wildfires might take place.

The recognisable danger in the proposal is that it would potentially violate current federal law that requires the federal government to provide a minimum of a 75% contribution on all public assistance funding provided following a disaster. The proposal is unclear on whether there are deductible offsets for investments that local governments made, and whether states have the sole authority to determine which projects would, and would not, receive funding when state deductibles have not been satisfied.

The current disaster deductible proposal by FEMA raises serious concern for local governments. According to the Congressional Research Service, there have been 13 disasters since 2000 that have each cost FEMA more than $500 million, while the agency’s disaster relief budget now exceeds $5 billion.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Fiscal 2018 White House budget proposal released and it is not good

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

On May 23rd, 2017, the White House released its first full budget proposal calling for dramatic cuts to a range of federal programs, and providing a fresh insight into the administration’s priorities. While the proposed cuts were not unexpected, given the previously-released “skinny” budget in March that highlighted topline cuts to many agency budgets, the full budget documents released in on May 23rd provide more specific information about targeted programs.

The Department of Agriculture would see a myriad of programs eliminated under the FY 2018 budget. The Rural Business and Cooperative Program, Rural Water and Waste Disposal Program, as well as the Rural Economic Development program would all be eliminated given their “failure to meet program goals and duplicating efforts of other agencies.”

For the Department of Commerce, the FY 2018 budget would seek to eliminate the Economic Development Administration on the basis that its grant programs are duplicative of other economic development programs. Federal funding would also be slashed for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) in order to save $124 million from “duplicate efforts of other federal programs and private sectors.” Similar fate and reasoning would await the Minority Business Development Administration (MBDA).

The Department of Education would see a 13.5% reduction in funding from $68.2 billion down to $59 billion in the proposed FY 2018 budget. The proposal would include cuts of roughly $168 million, or 15%, for career and technical education state grants under the Carl D. Perkins CTE Act; $96 million in cuts, or 16% to adult education state grants under WIOA Title II; and more than $500 million in cuts to the federal work-study program that support lower-income college students. The budget proposes eliminating the $730 million Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG). The budget does include funding for the Pell Grant program.

In the proposed FY 2018 budget, the Department of Labor would see a 19.8% decrease in funding from $12.1 billion down to $9.7 billion. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) would see cuts of approximately $1 billion from the three state formula grants under Title I of WIOA, cutting WIOA Adult from $816 million to $490 million, Dislocated Worker state grants from just over $1 billion to $615 million, and reducing youth grants from $873 million to $416 million. This represent about a 40% reduction from current funding levels.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development would see a decrease of funding by 13.2%, from $46.9 billion down to $40.7 billion. Choice Neighborhoods, Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, and HOME Investment Partnership program are all slated for elimination, recognizing a greater role for state and local government and the private sector to address community revitalization needs.

The Department of Transportation would receive 12.7% cuts to its current $18.6 billion funding levels, down to $16.2 billion. The FY 2018 budget would seek to effectively eliminate funding for the “unauthorized TIGER discretionary grant program,” as it is suspected in awarding grants to projects that are eligible for funding under existing surface transportation formula programs.

The Budget proposes to eliminate the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Delta Regional Authority, the Denali Commission, and the Northern Border Regional Commission.

Though Congress is not expected to adopt all of the President’s proposals, the budget sets an unfortunate baseline for policymakers as they begin the FY 2018 budget and appropriations process.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Report on NAFTA highlights benefits for US manufacturers and SMEs

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

In April, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have published a report on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) titled The Facts on NAFTA: Assessing Two Decades of Gains in Trade, Growth, and Jobs. The report highlights that a rising tide of commerce between the U.S. and Mexico has boosted competitiveness of American manufacturers and increased exports of small and medium-sized enterprises.

The report is published on the premise that there appear to be new opportunities for faster growth, deeper investment, and stronger North American competitiveness. This optimism stems from Trump administration’s commitment to revitalizing economic growth and maintaining a rocksteady strategic and economic partnership with Canada and Mexico.

The report also argues in favor of modernizing the trade agreement in order to strengthen economic ties that benefit Canada, U.S., and Mexico. Given that 14 million American jobs depend on the NAFTA agreement, which remains crucial to U.S. manufacturing, services, and agricultural sectors., there have been arguments in favor of modernizing the NAFTA agreement. Inclusion of such things as e-commerce and the digital economy would stimulate growth among 125,000 American small and medium-size businesses that rely on NAFTA for their exports.

Highlights of the report:

  • Trade with Canada and Mexico supports nearly 14 million American jobs, and nearly 5 million of these jobs are supported by the increase in trade generated by NAFTA.
  • NAFTA supports tens of thousands of jobs in each of the 50 states—and more than 100,000 jobs in each of 17 states.
  • Trade with Canada and Mexico accounts for $1.3 trillion, and the two countries buy more than one-third of U.S. merchandise exports.
  • NAFTA allowed U.S. manufacturers to add more than 800,000 jobs in the four years after NAFTA entered into force. Canadians and Mexicans purchased $487 billion of U.S. manufactured goods in 2014, generating nearly $40,000 in export revenue for every American factory worker.
  • NAFTA has helped U.S. agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico to increase by 350%.
  • With NAFTA, U.S. services exports to Canada and Mexico have tripled from $27 billion in 1993 to $92 billion in 2014.
  • Canada and Mexico are the top two export destinations for more than 125,000 of U.S. small and medium-size enterprises selling goods and services abroad in 2014.
Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Workforce and education programs largely maintained in FY 2017 omnibus package

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

The funding levels for the rest of the year has been established as the FY 2017 omnibus package passed through Congress on May 3rd, and the set is now being set for what is expected to be a contentious FY 2018 process.

The Labor-HHS-Education section of the bill largely sustains or increases investments in federal workforce and education programs. The bill increases funding for apprenticeship programs at the Department of Labor (DOL) from $90 million in FY 2016 to $95 million in FY 2017, with DOL to build on ApprenticeshipUSA initiative and to focus on expanding opportunities for women in apprenticeship. Training and education services to young adults received an increase of $15 million over FY 2016 levels. The package also restores year-round Pell Grants, which allow low-income students to access a second Pell award in a calendar year in order to accelerate their studies.

For most other programs, the bill maintains spending levels, including state formula grants under Title I of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Grant (WIOA), adult education grants under Title II of WIOA, and Perkins career and technical education (CTE) grants. The bill does include modest cuts to certain programs, including elimination of funding for the Women in Apprenticeship and Non-Traditional Occupations (WANTO) grant program, as well as cutting $34 million for Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP).

The Trump administration had pushed for significant cuts to FY 2017 spending, but ultimately Congress has rejected most of the administration’s proposals and instead focused on completing the current bill in order to avoid a potential government shutdown. It remains to be seen whether this support will carry over into FY 2018 appropriations process, where the President has suggested cuts of around 21% to the DOL budget and about 13% for Department of Education programs, including deep reductions in Pell Grants.

A detailed chart of spending levels for workforce and education can be found here.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Congress outlines FY 2017 spending levels in omnibus spending package

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

Congress outlines FY 2017 spending levels in omnibus spending package

After a last-minute effort to avoid the government shutdown on May 5th, Congress has passed an omnibus spending bill in order to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year. The massive legislation contains more than $1 trillion that funnels extra money to the military, but rejects many of President Trump’s other signature spending proposals.

The omnibus bill provides an annualized total of $1.07 trillion in base spending for fiscal 2017 and contains the 11 unfinished fiscal 2017 appropriation bills. The legislation provides renewed spending instructions for every facet of the federal government that begins after the May 5th deadline of the previous continuing resolution that extended funding by a week.

Democratic leaders consider the bill a victory, claiming to have blocked 160 “poison pill” Republican policy riders and stymied many of President Trump’s priorities. No funding was included for the proposed wall on the Southern border or a so-called deportation force, but the package would provide another $1.5 billion for border security efforts including new technology and repairing existing infrastructure. $15 billion is also included for supplemental defense spending, about half the amount sought previously, which somewhat reduces the burden on federal economic development programs.

The legislation also addresses such national urgencies as:

  • $593 billion for defense;
  • More than $8 billion in emergency and disaster relief funding to fight wildfires, flooding and other extreme weather events in North Carolina, California, Louisiana, West Virginia and more;
  • $34 billion for the National Institutes of Health, a $2 billion or 6.2% increase from current levels;
  • Restored year-round Pell Grants for low-income college students;
  • $990 million in emergency famine relief, including $300 million for Food For Peace program;
  • $103 million to combat opioid abuse;
  • $1 billion in funding for miner’s health care;
  • Rejection of cuts to women’s health group Planned Parenthood.

The omnibus will fund agencies and Congress for the rest of fiscal 2017, which ends September 30.

On April 18, the Small Business Administration (SBA) announced its proposal to amend its small business size regulations to incorporate the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) revision for 2017, identified as NAICS 2017, into its table of small business size standards.

NAICS 2017 created 21 new industries by reclassifying, combining, or splitting 29 existing industries under changes made to NAICS in 2012 (NAICS 2012). SBA's proposed size standards for these 21 new industries have resulted in an increase to size standards for six NAICS 2012 industries and part of one industry, a decrease to size standards for two, a change in the size standards measure from average annual receipts to number of employees for one, and no change in size standards for twenty industries and part of one industry. SBA proposes to adopt the updated table of size standards, effective October 1, 2017.

Complete information on the relationship between NAICS 2012 and NAICS 2017 is available on the U.S. Bureau of the Census (Census Bureau) website​. Complete information on the proposed size standards and new industries can be found in the Federal Register pertaining to this announcement.

SBA welcomes public comment on this proposed rule until June 19, 2017. Submissions are accepted through the Federal Register or http://www.regulations.gov/.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Applications open for Rural Cooperative Development Grants

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

On March 22, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published an announcement that the Rural Business-Cooperative Service agency is accepting fiscal year 2017 applications for the Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) program.

The primary objective of the RCDG program is to improve the economic condition of rural areas through cooperative development. Grants are awarded on a competitive basis. The maximum award amount per grant is $200,000. Grants are available for non-profit corporations or higher education institutions only. Grant funds may be used to pay for up to 75% of the cost of establishing and operating centers for rural cooperative development. Grant funds may be used to pay for 95% of the cost of establishing and operating centers for rural cooperative development, when the applicant is a Tribal Land Grant Institutions. Centers may have the expertise on staff or they can contract out for the expertise, to assist individuals or entities in the start-up, expansion or operational improvement of rural businesses, especially cooperative or mutually-owned businesses.

Electronic applications must be received by May 26, 2017, to be eligible for grant funding. Please review the Grants.gov Web site at http://grants.gov/​applicants/​organization_​registration.jsp for instructions on the registration process.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Deteriorating transportation infrastructure begs for Congressional action

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

On March 9, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released its latest Infrastructure Report Card, which serves as a periodic assessment of the condition of American transportation infrastructure system, including roads, bridges, waterways, railways, public transit, and more. These findings confirm that America’s infrastructure is in desperate need of repair.

The report card grades the nation’s infrastructure as a D+ overall, and the study’s scores by category average between D’s and C’s. Some elements of the system were found to have made slight progress, while the rail sector was rated the highest, at B, thanks to a marked increase in private sector investment by the rail industry. However, a few key categories experienced decline, and several remained unchanged from the last analysis in 2013.

Infrastructure has always been the backbone of the U.S. economy and remains crucial for economic development. American businesses of every shape and size rely on airports, interstate highway system, and waterways daily to move their products and serve their customers. Congestion at airports makes travel problematic for business and leisure travelers alike, the main drivers of economic activity. Poor roads and railroads wear on the trucks and trains that carry goods across the country, reducing capacity and slowing the pace of deliveries. Crowded ports delay shipments from making their way onshore and being linked to the next step in the supply chain.

Investing in transportation infrastructure leads to effective development, faster economic growth and higher quality of life in urban and rural communities. Not maintaining the infrastructure will have the reverse effect. The most recent Department of Transportation conditions and performance report highlighted the current state of good repairs needed for highways and bridges at an estimated $830 billion. Of the total backlog, $394.9 billion (18.8%) is required for the Interstate System; $394.9 billion (47.2%) is for the National Highway System, and $644.8 billion (77.1%) is for Federal-aid highways.

President Donald Trump has announced his desire to enact an infrastructure investment package, and many in Congress, including leadership, have expressed a willingness to advance such legislation. During March and April, policymakers have offered various answers, including direct federal funding, revolving loan programs, tax-preferred financing, and public-private partnerships. To increase investment in transportation infrastructure that would benefit American communities directly, an infrastructure package should make use of a variety of funding and financing options to increase investment, while a long-term, sustainable funding source should serve as the anchor. With this, infrastructure will remain as the lifeblood of American businesses and communities, generating growth and prosperity for decades to come.

Monday, April 10, 2017

State and local officials eager to support infrastructure investments

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

President Trump and congressional Democrats have proposed trillion-dollar infrastructure spending sprees, and among their most ardent allies are the nation’s governors who cite years of pent-up demand for fixing or expanding old assets and building new ones.

On February 13, the National Governors Association (NGA), in conjunction with 10 other state and local groups, has issued State and Local Fiscal Facts: 2017, a brief outlining the fiscal condition of state and local governments. In the past few years, the fiscal conditions of state and local governments have stabilized, but improvements have been uneven. Particular emphasis was placed on municipal bonds, which remain a critical tool for financing the construction or improvement of schools, streets, highways, hospitals, bridges, water and sewer systems, ports, airports, and other public works.

Between 2007 and 2016, states, countries, and other localities invested $3.8 trillion in infrastructure through tax-exempt municipal bonds, whereas the federal government provided nearly $1.5 trillion. The report emphasizes that it is now critically important that governors have many tools available in the toolbox to maintain and repair America’s infrastructure.

These efforts were joined on February 15 by National Association of Countries (NACo), as Central Region Representative Cindy Bobbitt emphasized counties' vast transportation infrastructure responsibilities. Counties own and maintain 45% of public road miles and nearly 40% of bridges, and are involved in a third of the nation's public transportation systems and airports. County infrastructure plays a critical role in moving freight and other goods to market, while modernizing industries, higher crop yields and new methods of energy extraction create immense stress on rural roads. Bobbitt underscored that the federal-state-local partnership on infrastructure, informed by county input, is crucial for economic competitiveness.

 “Governors look forward to working with the President to creating a 21st century infrastructure system that boosts the economy” stated NGA Executive Director and CEO Scott Pattison.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Budget request proposes cuts to essential Transportation programs and grants

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

In the FY 2018 federal budget request released on March 16, the administration targets the reduction of discretionary spending for the Department of Transportation (DOT) by 12.7%, from $18.6 billion to $16.2 billion. It seeks to charter a private non-profit organization to take over air traffic control from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and dismantle competitive grant programs meant to help transportation projects spur economic growth.

Trump’s proposal to spin off air traffic control (ATC) stalled last year, but as Congress begins work on reauthorizing the FAA which expires on September 30, there is now a push for establishing a private non-profit organization or a government corporation to operate the nation’s air traffic control system and separate it from the FAA. With President Trump embarking on loosening regulations and investing in infrastructure, removing the ATC system from federal control would insulate it from governmental “dysfunction.”

The budget also calls for eliminating the Essential Air Service (ESA), a subsidy program for airlines to provide passenger service to small and rural communities that would otherwise not be profitable. The EAS program assists airlines in serving small communities, and the elimination of funding would hurt rural counties where EAS services provide a crucial economic lifeline to communities with no airport in their region. The budget projected that eliminating the program would save $175 million over the annualized CR level.

The budget request also would eliminate the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER), a competitive grant program in which state and local governments request federal matching funds for projects with an economic impact. The request gives no details on the savings from the program. It was funded at $500 million in fiscal 2016 and has been proven popular, with the number of applications for TIGER grants exceeding the amount of funding.

The budget outline also would limit funding for the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts program that provides grants for major rail-based public transportation projects. The White House called for those programs to be funded entirely at the local level. The outline asked Congress to fund only grants that have already been fully agreed to, indicating that no future grants would be approved.

The request would reduce federal funding for Amtrak, a long time target for GOP cuts. The White House called for eliminating federal support for long-distance service, saying it causes most of the organization’s operating losses. That approach would allow for a greater focus on more urgent priorities, like the Northeast Corridor lines and other state-supported passenger services. However, this could impact nearly 500 communities that are served by Amtrak.

The budget document stated the cuts would help the DOT focus on transportation needs of “vital national interests.” The budget request reflects a streamlined DOT that is focused on performing vital functions and reduces or eliminates programs that are either inefficient, duplicative of other Federal efforts, or that involve activities that are better delivered by States, localities, or the private sector.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

EB-5 immigrant investor program under review

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

The chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary committees are urging President Donald Trump to keep intact Obama’s proposal aimed at tightening regulations on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) EB-5 visa program that fast-tracks green card applications for foreign investors. Congressional lawmakers are urging the President to follow through on sweeping changes to the program that could begin to fix a program that’s strayed from congressional intent and become susceptible to foreign influence.

The EB-5 Program was enacted as part of the Immigration Act of 1990, and established the EB-5 immigrant visa classification to incentivize employment creation in the United States. Under the EB-5 program, lawful permanent resident status is available to foreign nationals who invest at least $1 million in a new commercial enterprise that will create at least 10 full-time jobs in the United States.

Congressional critics of the EB-5 program see it as flawed and as the investment requirements are too low and should be adjusted for inflation and to curb waste, fraud and abuse. The changes proposed by Obama would increase minimum investment amounts from $500,000 to $1.35 million for projects in state-designated Targeted Employment Areas, and from $1 million to $1.8 million for standard projects. Proposed regulations would change which neighborhoods states may be designated as Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs). The TEA designation would also be decided by the DHS, instead of state economic development agencies.

The changes to the program, beginning with the proposal by Obama’s DHS, could turn EB-5 investments into “a turbo-charged engine for economic growth” in struggling urban neighborhoods and depressed rural areas. Congressional support for overhauling or ending the EB-5 program is bipartisan, but so is resistance by party leaders who oppose major legislative change. Some lawmakers argue that less flexibility on TEA designations would kill job creation in urban areas by imposing a rural model on cities where workers travels across census districts to work in profitable downtown areas. Others oppose the program in its current state and have proposed to terminate it (S 232) if changes aren’t made soon.

DHS is set to unveil the final set of new regulations after a comment period ends in April. The EB-5 program has been reauthorized without change in recent years through omnibus spending bills and continuing resolutions.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

DOE releases national energy employment analysis

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov
In mid-January, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released the agency’s second annual analysis of how changes in America’s energy profile are affecting national employment in key sectors of the economy. The report concentrates on the dynamic role of energy technologies and infrastructure in a 21st century American economy as energy innovation is proving itself as the important driver of economic growth in America and producing 14% of the new jobs in 2016. Some key findings of the report include: 4 million Americans are employed in Traditional Energy and Energy Efficiency ...
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Renewable energy investments not only benefit the environment, they are also essential for economic growth. Most renewable investments are done through tax credits, and in late 2015, a bill titled American Clean Energy Investment Act (S.2391) was introduced in the Senate in order to extend state tax credits through 2020, citing tremendous effect clean energy investments have on poor and rural communities. While the bill initially gained bipartisan support, it stalled as the attention of lawmakers quickly shifted elsewhere, highlighting once more the marginalization of clean energy as a vehicle for economic development.

Yet renewable energy holds the greatest potential for economic growth for distressed rural communities. As many states across America gradually lose their manufacturing and agricultural jobs, rural areas in particular need to find different industries to develop. With cheap land available across many states and counties, North Carolina is a great showcase of how investment into solar industry continues to be a strategy for economic stability in the 21st century.

In 2007, North Carolina became the first state in the South to adopt a renewable energy and efficiency standard, which led to a strong commitment to renewable energy, especially solar energy, for the energy needs of the state. And the commitment has paid off big time. North Carolina spent $135 million on clean energy incentives between 2009 and 2013, which generated $2.67 billion in investments, and continued private investment is expected to generate an additional $8.1 billion over the next 10 years. Between 2012 and 2013, North Carolina’s also saw solar industry employment grow 10 times faster than the national average, and the industry now employs over 3,000 residents.

North Carolina’s rural counties saw the bulk of this investment, with Catawba, Davidson, Duplin, Person, Robeson, and Wayne Counties, getting more than $100 million each. The state now has 150 utility-scale solar facilities, with 60 of them in rural counties. These facilities provide jobs, local tax revenue, and generate income for farmers and landowners who lease some of their property to a solar farm. This kind of economic activity is essential for rural communities that have struggled to find their footing in the wake of the recession.

North Carolina’s strength in solar has also attracted companies with energy-intensive data centers, as they see the state and its rural communities as an environmentally friendly and progressive place to do business. American Express chose North Carolina for a $400 million data center because of the state’s robust clean energy policy, and Apple built the largest privately owned solar facility in the nation at its data center in Maiden.

While indicators predict that the sector will continue to generate an average of $523 million in annual revenue from 2017 to 2023, there is a serious concern that clean energy investments will slow down without sufficient federal tax credits under the Trump administration. By overlooking and marginalizing continued investments in renewable energy, success stories like North Carolina will become less common across the economic development landscape.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Trumpís budget seeks to eliminate fundamental CDBG program

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

In its continued effort to reallocate $54 billion for defense spending in fiscal 2018, The Trump administration is proposing to eliminate the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program in a fiscal 2018 budget request that would cut more than 13% from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) discretionary spending of $38 billion. This would significantly impact every American, as massive corresponding cuts to domestic programs would reduce support for Americans living in urban rural communities.

The CDBG program is the most flexible stream of federal dollars allocated to American communities. Since the start of the program in 1974, CDBGs are one of the only federal funding sources that give community leaders some discretion in how the money is spent, with these grants being used to leverage private investment, create affordable housing, spur economic development, rebuild infrastructure and provide services that strengthen metro areas and rural communities. For every $1.00 of CDBG investment, another $3.65 in private and public dollars is leveraged. The elimination of these grants would represent $3 billion of the $6.2 billion in savings requested by the budget document

The reported $6.2 billion cut planned for HUD will put a tremendous strain on housing authorities across the country, which manage public housing and rely heavily on federal funding. A reduction of $6.2 billion would amount to a cut of about 13% from the housing agency’s $38 billion discretionary budget. Most of that money is used to provide rental assistance to 5.5 million U.S. households, which consumes 84% of HUD’s discretionary budget.

Additional local programs slated for elimination from HUD include the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, Choice Neighborhoods, the Self-help Homeownership Opportunity Program, as well cutting $35 million of funding from Section 4 Community Development and Affordable Housing, and would amount to $1.1 billion in savings.

The proposed cuts are particularly hard-hitting for the department that has been on course for a fiscal 2017 budget increase in Congress' appropriations work last year. The proposed cut of 13% from the HUD budget would be against the fiscal 2017 annualized continuing resolution figure provided by the administration. The budget request seeks $40.7 billion in fiscal 2018, down from the $46.9 billion that the White House described as the fiscal 2017 annualized continuing resolution, which is set to expire on April 28.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Trumpís budget would cut Pell Grants and other education grants

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

With funding for education programs already being at historically low levels, President Donald Trump’s proposed budget seeks to add on to historic cuts and continue the erosion of funding for low-income college students and teacher training programs. In his slimmed-down fiscal 2018 budget request released March 16, Trump seeks to slash the Education Department‘s discretionary funding to $59 billion, or $9.2 billion below fiscal 2017 enacted levels.

Pell Grants are assisting an estimated 7.8 million low-income students attending college this year, would also see cuts from its reserves as Trump proposes slashing $3.9 billion from the program’s $7.8 billion surplus. This could end bipartisan bid to use extra funds to allow students a second Pell Grant for summer classes. Increased Pell Grant funding was a top priority for presidents of and advocates for historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) when they met lawmakers and White House officials in February. While funding for HBCUs would stay the same under Trump’s proposal, 75% of students who attend the institutions rely on the Pell Grants.

In addition to Pell Grants, another $732 million in grants for the neediest of students would be eliminated as it is not as effective in targeting students as Pell, according to Trump’s budget document. The funding for the program would not transfer to the Pell grant either. Programs helping low-income, first generation students prepare and apply for college will also be cut, as well as significantly reducing funding to help employers hire students with financial need for part-time work.

Much of Trump’s budget proposal for education focused on making school choice a central feature of his education policy, with $1.4 billion becoming available for public-private school choice program. The budget encourage states to use the additional $1 billion to Title I to adopt a system so federal funds can follow students to the school of their parents’ choosing. The budget would maintain the $13 billion in funding for educating student with disabilities.

Monday, March 20, 2017

National Association of Counties publishes new reports

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

The National Association of Counties (NACo) has released two new reports and an online tool in February to assist economic developers in mitigating flooding disasters and leveraging economic development through friend-oriented transportation investments.

As disasters can have a profound impact on counties, Managing Disasters at the County Level: A Focus on Flooding report focuses on emergency management for flooding, the most common natural hazard. County best practices from across the nation are used to underscore and exemplify each resilience strategy. County leaders can use this report to better understand the emergency management cycle and the breadth of resilience strategies available as they work to make their counties more resilient, healthy and safe for residents.

As an addition, NACo collaborated with The Nature Conservancy, to release the Naturally Resilient Communities online guide. This tool is designed to promote the role that nature-based solutions can play in helping reduce flood risk for communities, while also providing other benefits such as improved water quality, enhanced recreational opportunities and wildlife habitat, and stronger, more resilient local economies.

The Counties on Track: Strategies for Freight-Oriented Economic Development report describes how freight transportation investments can fuel local and regional economic development. By exploring how counties in diverse parts of America are partnering with public and private sector actors, the report reveals the county’s role in promoting “freight-oriented development” to create jobs and improve goods movement. Further, the cases described in the report illustrate how counties serve as key connectors to boost local businesses and attract new growth, based on connectivity and place-based assets.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Bipartisan resistance mounts to Trumpís proposed budget cuts

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

Democrats are rallying against plans by President Donald Trump to cut $54 billion from non-defense side of the discretionary budget in fiscal 2018 in order to offset a corresponding increase in military spending. The proposed cuts threaten major federal programs that are essential for economic developers across the United States, as Democrats and advocates expect export-oriented, manufacturing, business-focused, education, and workforce programs to be targeted by the conservative administration.

President Trump’s proposed reduction to the domestic budget comes as non-defense spending is already on track to reach historic lows before the end of Trump’s first term, unless Congress acts to raise budgetary caps put in place in 2011 (PL 112-25). Under that budget law, defense spending is limited to $549 billion and nondefense spending is capped at $515.4 billion for fiscal 2018, which begins on October 1. Congress would need to pass a new budget law – not just a fiscal 2018 budget resolution that could be adopted with only Republican votes – in order to raise the caps to accommodate Trump’s proposals. The law could pose yet another hurdle for the Trump administration's plans.

Democrats, whose votes will be needed to advance fiscal 2018 appropriations later this year, reiterated their opposition to Trump’s budget plans, indicating that they will oppose any effort to boost defense spending at the expense of domestic programs. Democratic lawmakers perceive Trump’s budget guidance as setting the stage for drastic cuts that will hurt American workers and weaken the national economy, and they are prepared to stall any proposals that shift more economic burdens onto American families, businesses, and communities.

Republicans were also lukewarm to Trump’s proposal for drastic cuts, suggesting that the first budget request to Congress could be a tough sell. Republican lawmakers and appropriators are also skeptical of the budget proposal, given that non-defense spending is already at historically low levels. Many Republicans also have a lot of vested interests in protecting services and investments that are critical to hardworking American families and communities across the country. Funding for programs that invest in American communities and provide opportunities for all Americans to get ahead are already under significant pressure, and cutting them even further is dangerous and short-sighted.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Congress seeks Trumpís support for investment in distressed communities

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

Congressional lawmakers in both chambers aim to obtain support from President Donald Trump for new incentives to help economically distressed communities. Since the beginning of 2017, a group of Republicans have been working to pitch tax incentives for financially troubles areas to President Trump and other administration officials.

They are echoing Trump’s calls to revitalize areas with economic woes while the president develops his legislative agenda, including a tax outline slated for release in several weeks. According to a 2016 Distressed Communities Report by the bipartisan think tank Economic Innovation Group, 50 million Americans live in economically distressed areas. The bipartisan bill entitled Investing in Opportunity Act (S.293) would allow investors to put money – with a deferral of capital gains – into new investments in opportunity zones to be chosen by governors based on criteria such as low median family incomes or poverty rates of 20% or higher. Republicans support the initiative and are proposing several ideas, including a plan to put 10% of rural development funds into areas with poverty rates of at least 20% over the last 30 years.

Other lawmakers are pushing a draft version of longstanding proposal to cut taxes for families and businesses in economic freedom zones, as well as a bipartisan proposal (H.R.1098) to permanently extend the popular New Markets tax credit for investment in low-income communities. That credit expired in 2019. Under the 17-year old New Markets program (PL 106-554) run by the Treasury Department, investors can claim a tax credit for 7 years that equals 39% of the investment in approved community development corporations.

While tax incentives were not emphasized in the anti-poverty plan contained in the House Republican’s “Better Way” agenda, which called for work incentives for welfare and other benefits, there is a chance that President Trump will revive themes he outlined last year. In an October 2016 speech in Charlotte, NC, Trump vowed to “propose tax holidays for inner-city investment and new tax incentives to get foreign companies to relocate in blighted American neighborhoods,” and suggested a “federal disaster designation for blighted communities” to spur redevelopment.

Yet while President Trump might be serious about doing something for economically distressed communities and reorienting government policy towards encouraging business development instead of government spending, proposals to aid distressed communities have a mixed record in terms of longevity and enactment on Capitol Hill. Trump must be aware that benefits provided by such programs have withered over time. A number of incentives for empowerment zones expired at the end of 2016, including tax-exempt bonds, an employment tax credit, and more generous business licensing.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

President Trump orders review of contentious WOTUS rule

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

On February 28, President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to review and reconsider the Obama-era “Waters of the United States” rule that expanded federal jurisdiction over pollution in streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act.

The order is a review, and not a repeal of the rule. On the White House website, under the “America First Energy Plan” webpage, Trump committed “to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule.” By issuing the order, the EPA and the Corps are to restart and rewrite the rule to enable more common-sense local implementation. Since the rule was originally proposed, it received a lot of criticism for excluding state and local government concerns. Many states and agricultural interests claimed that the rule caused excessive economic harm and was an executive branch overreach. Newly installed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt promised that the agency would work to reduce the “regulatory burden” on economic interests by the Obama administration.

The National Association of Counties has repeatedly called for collaborative engagement, greater certainty, and a pragmatic rule to advance clean water goals without hindering counties’ vast public safety and infrastructure responsibilities. Counties own and manage public safety infrastructure including 45% of the nation’s road miles and associated ditches, 40% of bridges, as well as flood control channels, drainage conveyances and culverts used to prevent flooding, all impacted by the rule.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Trump orders review of burdensome regulations

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

On February 24, President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing that each federal agency create a task force to identify and recommend changes to unnecessary, burdensome, and harmful rules. The order is the latest in administration’s push to unwind regulations across the executive branch. The President also previously signed an executive order that would require agencies to eliminate two regulations for every new one they finalize.

According to the President, excessive regulations are eliminating jobs, and driving companies out of America like never before. The Presidential Executive Order on Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda directs each agency to establish a regulatory reform task force, which will ensure that every agency has a team of dedicated people to research all regulations that are unnecessary, burdensome and harmful to the economy.

In the early days of the Trump administration, much of that regulatory repeal effort has focused on energy and environment issues, including the signing of a Congressional Review Act resolution to nullify the Obama-era Stream Protection Rule, which updates regulations for runoff from open pit mining operations. While these executive orders are welcomed by states, manufacturers and businesses, they are met with increasing criticism from environmental groups. However, review does not mean repeal, and President Trump claims that and environmental regulations on certain activities will likely remain in place, as his main objective is the revision of “repetitive regulations that hurt companies, hurt jobs, and make American producers uncompetitive overseas.”

The Trump administration is preparing a series of executive orders that would direct the Environmental Protection Agency to rework two of its most controversial regulations — its Clean Power Plan and “Waters of the United States” rulemaking. The two regulations have been a target of Trump throughout his campaign, and under the “America First Energy Plan,” President Trump has committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

National experts examine future of education and workforce funding

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

2017 is shaping up as a profoundly challenging year for federal education and workforce funding, as Congress grapples with the return of strict budget caps and sequestration in FY 2018, while finalizing FY 2017 spending bills in a transformed political landscape. On February 23, the National Skills Coalition hosted a webinar to examine the impact of the federal budget and appropriations on the future of education and workforce funding.

The webinar highlighted that there is a high chance of a continuing resolution (CR) moving through this year and into 2018, with frozen funding for workforce and education program funding. Discretionary spending has decreased from $600 billion in 2010 to $503 billion in 2018, as additional cuts to these programs are adding on to historic cuts for continual erosion of funding for workforce and education programs.

Key Department of Labour and Education Department workforce programs continue to be funded at 2016 levels, with an expected cut, or at least a freeze, for 2017-2018 funding. The a possibility of CR that will continue funding at 2016 levels this year is a good sign for workforce programs, because Senate proposed a lower funding level for these programs for 2017.

Workforce, Perkings Vocational Training and Technical Education Grants, and adult education have all seen substantial cuts in the last 15 years, when adjusted for inflation. Since 2001:

  • WIA/WOIA formula grants have been cut by 40%, from $4.7 billion to $2.9 billion in FY 2016;
  • Perkins CTE has been cut by 30%, from $1.6 billion to $1.1 billion in FY 2016;
  • Adult Education has been cut by 20%, from $883 million to $581 million in FY 2016.

With a Republican majority in Congress and a large budgetary agenda before them, taxes will be the central priority going into 2018, with expected cuts across the board for discretionary spending. In addition, plans that involve the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, turning Medicaid into block grants, increasing defence spending, and balancing the budget likely means that discretionary spending will be sustaining continued cuts in the years ahead.

The slide deck and the recording of the webinar can be found here.

Friday, March 3, 2017

President Trump vows to upgrade airport infrastructure

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

In a White House meeting on February 9, President Donald Trump told airline and airport leaders he would upgrade aviation infrastructure and reduce regulations in the industry, and offered supportive words for a proposal to spin off air traffic control from government direction.

Trump blasted the technology in use by the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) air traffic control system and asked questions about the idea of spinning off the system from FAA’s control. But while the FAA’s so-called NextGen program to modernize air navigation has seen a number of unexpected costs and delays, President Trump he stopped short of endorsing a proposal to spin the air traffic operations into an independent entity. 

The measure is opposed by Democrats who attacked it as “privatization” that would undercut a unionized federal workforce, and by some rural Republicans who worried that small, non-commercial aviation would be steamrolled by an airline-dominated non-profit board. The House committee has already begun discussing the next FAA reauthorization bill, which must be enacted by Sept. 30 to avoid a lapse in authorization. The proposal to spin the air traffic operations into a separate entity will likely remain on the table.

Trump said he would find ways to fund airport infrastructure improvements, but was vague about how he would do so. The president also appeared unenthusiastic about raising the federal cap on passenger facilities charges — fees on air travel that are funneled back into airports where the ticketed flights take off — that airports support.

Still, the airport representatives said they were encouraged by the meeting. They noted that Trump referred to fees rather than taxes, a phrasing that airport representatives said shows the revenue is reinvested in the airports. The President asked staff to schedule a follow-up meeting within three months.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Countering potential proposed cuts to federal economic development programs

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

The Trump administration plans to release an outline of its fiscal 2018 budget request on March 14, a late submission that is likely to delay the appropriations process. Trump intends to submit what is described as a "skinny budget" that offers a broad outline of his fiscal goals. No target date has been set for releasing a complete budget request.

Yet there are reports that the Trump administration is considering adopting a budget blueprint designed by the Heritage Foundation to slash trillions of dollars of federal spending. The Heritage Foundation is a conservative think tank that proposes to cut or eliminate many federal programs that support businesses and investments, in an effort to cut $10 trillion from the budget deficit over 10 years. In line with Trump administration’s desire to balance the budget deficit, the Foundation proposes to eliminate key federal programs such as Export-Import Bank, Manufacturing Extension Partnership, Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer initiatives, which are essential in promoting state-level economic development programs that maximize the benefits of economic competition.

Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) is one of the numerous bodies claiming that the Heritage plan has a potential to severely harm U.S. innovation, production, and competitiveness. It has concluded an analysis that the country has suffered for more than a decade from chronic underinvestment in foundational areas such as science, technology, education, and infrastructure. To foster an innovative and competitive economy in a turbulent and sometimes hostile world, the U.S. government must continue to improve and expand the programs available found in Departments of Labor, Commerce, Energy, Transportation, Economic Development, and Small Business Administration. Many of these federal programs compensate for serious market failures and play a pivotal role in ensuring that United States is succeeding in global economic competition.

The United States continues to suffer from underinvestment, and the combined failure of the public and private sectors to invest sufficiently is undermining the national economy. All sectors in American society need to work together to spur economic development and to revitalize research, technology, industry, education, and infrastructure. Crippling key functions of the federal government, which would be the consequence of adopting Heritage Foundation’s budget blueprint, will set America back even further.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Trump's first budget: What you need to know

posted by: Karen Garcia

The two-month anniversary of the Trump administration approaches, and the White House has yet to release the president’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2018. Currently, the deadline set by the White House for the submission of this budget proposal is March 16. 

Download the "Why Invest in Economic Development?" brochure here (PDF).

Also, please tell us how federal econ dev programs have supported your community by completing this assessment.

While the president’s proposal has not been released, numerous organizations have sought to influence the decision-making both in the executive and legislative branches of government through various publications. Among them, below are two budget blueprints that delineate what may be expected from the president:

While these sources are only providing recommendations and cannot be considered the definitive voice on federal budget development, they should be seen as strong influencers, and their recommendations should be taken seriously. Some of the contributors to these publications are now established in key positions throughout the Trump administration. For example, Mick Mulvaney, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget was a member of the Republican Study Committee. Additionally, Paul Winfree, director of budget policy and deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council for the White House, was most recently an economic policy director at the Heritage Foundation and was also a key contributor to its budget blueprint.  

Below is an outline of the budget blueprints, as well as the potential changes to the federal budget that target federal programs that communities depend on to advance their economic development goals. There is also information on the resources readily available to help advocate and champion these federal economic development programs.

What is at stake?

The budget blueprints shown above propose the reduction of U.S. debt through cuts to federal spending that is non-defense focused. These proposed cuts aim to significantly reduce funding for or to completely eliminate numerous economic development programs. Below are several programs currently outlined for significant reduction in funding or for complete elimination:

  • Economic Development Administration ($227 million) – elimination

  • International Trade Administration ($503 million) – elimination

  • Rural Utilities Service ($522 million) – elimination 

  • Rural Business-Cooperative Service ($146 million) – elimination

  • Minority Business Development Agency ($33 million) – elimination

  • Manufacturing Extension Partnership ($133 million) – elimination

  • Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy ($1.99 billion) – elimination

  • Export-Import Bank ($200 million) – elimination

  • Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Job-Training Programs ($3.4 billion) – elimination

  • Appalachian Regional Commission ($149 million) – elimination

  • Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery Grant (TIGER) Program ($510 million) – elimination

  • Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Disaster Relief Fund ($7.3 billion) – reduced 

The possible elimination of these programs would roughly slash $15.1 billion in funds and initiatives and impede economic development work. These programs have had a tremendous role and impact in the promotion of growth and job creation. They have funded investments in highways, training programs for the U.S. workforce, loans for small businesses, export promotion of businesses’ goods, and the promotion of foreign direct investment into U.S. communities.

The potential repercussions for economic developers could be widespread – with the worst case scenario being the absence of federal economic development programs and funds. These are programs and funds that are readily available to complement state and local efforts that maximize opportunity for every American. There would no longer be funds to draw in private-sector investment in infrastructure improvements, workforce development, innovation and entrepreneurship, small business expansion, and ultimately job creation.

Again, the administration’s budget proposal has yet to be released, and there is no certainty if the recommendations from the Heritage Foundation or the Republican Study Committee will be pursued. Additionally, even if the proposed reduction of funds or complete elimination are included in the president’s budget proposal, it is important to note that this is not an exceptional occurrence. Previous administrations have unsuccessfully targeted some of these programs for elimination.

Call to action

Equally as important to note, the president’s budget submission will be a proposal. In order for it to go into effect, Congress must approve it, and this is where economic developers can have a real impact. 

IEDC has developed a brochure (PDF) that explains the important role federal economic development plays in U.S. communities. It contains easy-to-remember talking points about a handful of economic development programs and their impact. The brochure is meant to serve as an educational tool that can be shared widely with other economic development organizations at the state and local level. But more importantly, it is a tool that can be used in current and future conversations with members of Congress that can help emphasize quickly and succinctly the importance of federal economic development programs and why they must be preserved.

IEDC is also collecting examples of federal economic development investments from communities across the country. If you haven’t already added to our growing library, please consider doing so today. It will be critically important to have real-world examples of the impact of these programs.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Executives stress importance of ports in infrastructure plan

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

With President Trump promising to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure over 10 years, the pledge is receiving significant attention by both Congress and the new administration. Given the focus on infrastructure this month, the time was ripe for a group of port executives to make a pitch to House staff members on February 9 to be part of any broad package of infrastructure spending that moves through Congress this year. 

Mark McAndrews, the chairman of the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), was joined by the heads of ports in California, New York, Texas and Indiana. The group told a room of staff members for lawmakers who are members of the Ports Opportunity, Renewal, Trade and Security Caucus in the House that investments in ports, harbors and waterways should be part of any infrastructure legislation that moves this year. Billions of dollars in backlogged projects threaten the economic benefits that ports bring to the national economy.

According to AAPA, cargo activity at ports supports over 23 million jobs and touches 25% of the national economy. Federal investment in ports infrastructure would spur other investment. A recent survey by the association projected that ports intend to invest more than $155 billion over the next five years. “For America to be internationally competitive, it’s critical that the federal government uphold its end of the partnership and invest in port-related infrastructure on both the landside and the waterside,” claimed AAPA representatives.

The ports advocates encouraged Congress to spend some of the roughly $9 billion surplus in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund that receives revenue from taxes collected on imports and exports. The issue is supported by Democrat Peter A. DeFazio of Oregon, who proposed a measure last year through a water resources bill that would have allowed the trust fund surplus to be spent without a specific appropriation. The measure was stripped from the final law (PL 114-322).

DeFazio has proposed the measure again, saying the measure would allow up to $27 billion in harbor maintenance over the next decade, with the federal government focusing on projects like harbor and channel dredging, rehabilitation and replacement of locks, jetties and breakwaters without raising taxes.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Trump administration considers slashing federal funding in new budget

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

The Trump administration plans to release an outline of its fiscal 2018 budget request on March 14, a late submission that is likely to delay the appropriations process. Trump intends to submit what is described as a "skinny budget" that offers a broad outline of his fiscal goals. No target date has been set for releasing a complete budget request.

Yet there are reports that the Trump administration is considering adopting a budget blueprint designed by the Heritage Foundation to slash trillions of dollars of federal spending. The Heritage Foundation is a conservative think tank that proposes to cut or eliminate many federal programs that support businesses and investments, in an effort to cut $10 trillion from the budget deficit over 10 years. In line with Trump administration’s desire to balance the budget deficit, the Foundation proposes to eliminate key federal programs such as Export-Import Bank, Manufacturing Extension Partnership, Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer initiatives, which are essential in promoting state-level economic development programs that maximize the benefits of economic competition.

Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) is one of the numerous bodies claiming that the Heritage plan has a potential to severely harm U.S. innovation, production, and competitiveness. ITIF President Rob Atkinson -- a keynote speaker at the upcoming 2017 FED Forum -- has concluded an analysis that the country has suffered for more than a decade from chronic underinvestment in foundational areas such as science, technology, education, and infrastructure. To foster an innovative and competitive economy in a turbulent and sometimes hostile world, the U.S. government must continue to improve and expand the programs available found in Departments of Labor, Commerce, Energy, Transportation, Economic Development, and Small Business Administration. Many of these federal programs compensate for serious market failures and play a pivotal role in ensuring that United States is succeeding in global economic competition.

The United States continues to suffer from underinvestment, and the combined failure of the public and private sectors to invest sufficiently is undermining the national economy. All sectors in American society need to work together to spur economic development and to revitalize research, technology, industry, education, and infrastructure. Crippling key functions of the federal government, which would be the consequence of adopting Heritage Foundation’s budget blueprint, will set America back even further.

Monday, February 27, 2017

DOT announced new funding opportunity for South Atlantic Region

posted by: Kirill Abbakumov

On February 9, the Department of Transportation’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) announced a funding opportunity for business centered community-based organizations, transportation-related trade associations, colleges and universities, community colleges, or chambers of commerce to compete for participation in OSDBU's Small Business Transportation Resource Center (SBTRC) program in the South Atlantic Region (Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky).

OSDBU will enter into Cooperative Agreements with these organizations to provide outreach to the small business community in their designated region and provide financial and technical assistance, business training programs, business assessment, management training, counseling, marketing and outreach, and the dissemination of information, to encourage and assist small businesses to become better prepared to compete for, obtain, and manage DOT funded transportation-related contracts and subcontracts at the federal, state and local levels.

The Cooperative Agreement Grant has an award ceiling of $135,000 and an award floor of $150,000.

Complete Proposals must be received on or before March 3, 2017, 6:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST). Proposals received after the deadline will be considered non-responsive and will not be reviewed.