Head of US EDA Showcasing Programs Ahead of Possible Change in Leadership

Dec 1, 2016
Originally published on December 6, 2016 6:19 pm

The head of the U.S. Economic Development Administration is preparing for a change in leadership for his agency following the election of Donald Trump as President. Jay Williams is confident, though, that the EDA efforts currently underway would succeed under the new administration.

Williams was appointed to serve as the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development by President Barack Obama. He took the oath of office in May 2014.

Williams said during an interview with Tri States Public Radio that one of his top priorities during the upcoming weeks and months is to solidify the programs that are helping small and large businesses across the country. Williams is a former mayor of Youngstown, Ohio, and said that makes him particular to helping businesses and individuals thrive in the Midwest.

"We want to make sure that people understand that we can help seed those types of programs here in the Midwest," said Williams. "You know, the East Coast, West Coast, those are great places, but people want to live here. There is a great quality of life here."

Williams said he is also working to ingrain the benefits of workforce development within the EDA. He said job training cannot be seen as something done only when a factory closes.

"We don't say, you can get those mechanical skills if you don't have other options," said Williams. "This is something we need to get our young people to aspire to do. Just doing things like that, good policy, good federal policy is what we are hopeful that, as a new administration comes in, they say, 'Yes, that is a good thing. Let's build on it and expand it.'"

Williams said he is optimistic his work over the past two-and-a-half years will remain evenif he is replaced.

"If these programs are driven, bought in to and believed in by the career individuals, they are the ones who really have an opportunity to say [it works]," said Williams. "A new administration can come in with a different vision, but it is hard to argue with good, solid policy that is supporting entrepreneurs, that is supporting manufacturing.

"Any administration is going to be responsive to hearing about programs that work, so that being the case, the proof is in the pudding. That's why we are making sure it is just not us touting it, but we are having the stakeholders and the practitioners say if it's working, let us know and if it is not working, how can we make it work better."

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