Chairman Carper’s Opening Statement: Hearing on Programs at the Economic Development Administration

WASHINGTON, D.C. Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a hearing to review programs at the Economic Development Administration (EDA) and highlight the need for reauthorization.

Below is the opening statement of Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:

“Good morning, everyone. I am delighted to call this hearing to order.

“To our witnesses—Assistant Administrator Castillo, Mike Bowman, Amy Liu, Shane Whitehair, and Dr. James Leiman—thank you all for joining us today to share your thoughts on an agency that is near and dear to the hearts of many of us—the Economic Development Administration. We are looking forward to hearing from each of our distinguished witnesses, and I am also looking forward to hearing the perspectives of our EPW committee colleagues on the agency’s programs.

“Before I get to introductions, though, let me share some brief thoughts with everyone about the Economic Development Administration, which we generally refer to as the EDA.

“The EDA is an essential agency at the Department of Commerce whose important work touches communities throughout our nation. It provides communities across America with some of the important tools they need to enable local and regional economies to grow and prosper. I’ve occasionally heard EDA described as something of a tugboat agency: small in size, but one whose assistance has an outsized impact on the regions and people it serves.

“Like many of our Senate colleagues, I know firsthand the important work that the EDA does in my state, and I am sure that the members of this committee have witnessed EDA’s invaluable work in their states, as well. In the First State, that work includes incubators in Wilmington in northern Delaware all the way south to the Center for Automotive Excellence at Delaware Technical Community College in Georgetown, Delaware, and a number of places in between. EDA’s positive impact on the lives of families in the First State is clearly visible, and it’s growing.

“As we review the agency’s programs today, it is well worth noting that EDA is long overdue for reauthorization. Congress has not reauthorized these programs since 2004. Let me say that again. We have not reauthorized EDA’s programs since 2004. Just think about how much our cell phones and the vehicles we drive have changed since then. We live in a much different time and circumstance, and a changing world demands an EDA that adapts to it.

“Over the past 17 years, we have witnessed amazing changes in technology, major shifts in our nation’s workforce, and daunting environmental and climate change impacts in our communities, not to mention a pandemic that has shaken our economy and our perspectives on business to the core.

“My hope is that today’s hearing will provide us with a better idea of what is working at EDA and what is not, along with what needs to be updated, and what we can do to help facilitate those improvements.

“Abraham Lincoln once said that the role of government ’is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot, so well do, for themselves.’ Put more simply, the role of government is to do for people what they cannot do for themselves. As we work together to escape the grips of this pandemic on our economy, we need to support our local and regional economies in ways that recognize the world we live and work in has changed.

“As a recovering governor, I have often said that governors don’t create jobs. Senators don’t create jobs. Presidents don’t create jobs. And, if truth be known, neither does the EDA. What we do—when we’re at our best—is work together to help create a nurturing environment that promotes job growth and economic expansion. We’d do well to keep that admonition in mind today as we explore how we can best achieve that goal and enable communities throughout America to thrive.

“And with that, before I turn to Ranking Member Capito for her opening remarks, I would like to offer a word of thanks to our first witness for joining us here today.

“In recent months, a number of us have had the opportunity to get to know Assistant Secretary Alejandra Castillo better as she has met with us on Capitol Hill, visited our states, returned our phone calls, and responded to our emails. She is a servant of the people in the best sense of the word. She focuses on getting things done and possesses a can-do attitude. In short, she and the men and women of the EDA are a pleasure to work with. 

“They share the same commitment that all of us on this dais share—to work hard each day for our constituents and to improve the lives of those we represent. Together, through smart decisions, appropriate investments, and hard work, we have an opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of many Americans throughout this country of ours.”