On April 9, Gunnison County, Colo. Commissioner John Messner testified on behalf of NACo before the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Recovery at a hearing titled, “Building Prosperity: EDA’s Role in Economic Development and Recovery.” Commissioner Messner noted the importance of the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA), which NACo strongly supports. The testimony livestream can be found at this link.
During the hearing, Commissioner Messner emphasized to Subcommittee Chairwoman Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Ranking Member Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and committee members that EDA is essential to helping communities rebuild and transition economies after disasters and economic upheaval. “I have seen firsthand the difference EDA can make in mitigating the economic downturn and in supporting efforts to create a stable and diversified economy in Gunnison County,” he said.
Between 2013 and 2016, Gunnison County and neighboring Delta County experienced significant job losses and an economic downturn due to the closure of coal mines across the two counties. In September 2016, EDA awarded Gunnison and Delta counties a $650,000 grant to create a multi-agency innovation center and laboratory located at Western Colorado University, known as the Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship Lab (ICELab). The ICELab serves as a coworking space, business incubator and business accelerator for local businesses and provides entrepreneurs a place to access capital and resources, incentivizing them to grow their businesses in Gunnison and Delta counties.
In her opening remarks, Chairwoman Titus indicated plans to introduce an EDA reauthorization bill, which was last reauthorized in 2008 and expired in 2011, but has been funded annually by Congress. NACo supports congressional efforts to reauthorize and fully fund EDA and recognizes the agency’s unique role in promoting job growth and economic development in distressed and rural areas.
Currently, EDA is funded at $304 million for FY 2019. As Congress initiates the FY 2020 appropriations cycle, NACo will continue to engage with key legislators to ensure counties have the economic development resources needed to deliver workforce resources to residents.