Regional Commissions: A Review of Federal Economic Development Program Effectiveness
2167 Rayburn House Office Building
This is a hearing of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management.
Opening remarks, as prepared, of Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Subcommittee Chairman Scott Perry (R-PA) from today’s hearing, entitled, “Regional Commissions: A Review of Federal Economic Development Program Effectiveness”:
I’d like to thank our witnesses for being here today to discuss the role and effectiveness of the regional commissions for economic development in distressed communities across the country.
Today, we will hear from five regional commissions: the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), the Delta Regional Authority (DRA), the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC), the Southeast Crescent Regional Commission (SCRC), and the Denali Commission.
These regional commissions are set up to work in partnership with their member state governments to support economic development activities. In addition to these regional commissions, the United States Economic Development Administration (EDA), a bureau of the Commerce Department, plays a similar role nationwide. There are also programs through other federal departments that play some role in economic development, such as the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Small Business Administration.
Frankly, I don’t believe the federal government should have any role in so-called economic development. These programs simply allow the federal government to, once more, pick winners and losers.
Private investment and innovation should drive economic development. States and local governments should be positioning themselves to create pro-business environments through reducing regulatory hurdles and the costs of doing business.
On top of the duplication concerns, these programs continue to proliferate and expand. For example, right now, it seems that the argument for a new regional commission is that other geographic areas have them. That is, from my perspective, not a winning argument. Programs that started out focused on the basic needs of distressed communities to attract jobs have expanded to include activities that don’t seem directly related to job production.
Now, I am not blaming you, the witnesses here today, for this. But it does mean that, at the very least, we should ensure your activities and funding are not duplicative. And we must ensure the funding is appropriately targeted and focused on truly distressed communities for activities that are directly related to attracting jobs and private investment, not used to backfill state budgets.
Notably, all of you received significant increases in supplemental funding in fiscal year 2021 under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – in some cases, 400 percent more than your annual appropriations – an important consideration as most of your agencies have authorizations that are expiring and up for consideration.