BATON ROUGE: Today, Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson and his peers from more than a dozen states completed a two-day State Commerce Leaders Forum in Washington, D.C., where the new working group set goals for better collaboration among the states and enhanced federal support of economic development priorities.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross addressed the forum on its final day as he and the commerce leaders engaged in a dialogue about national and state priorities. Forum leaders also secured a meeting with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson. During the discussion with Dr. Carson, Secretary Pierson requested expedited distribution of Community Development Block Grants that could speed the flow of recovery dollars for Louisiana homeowners, businesses and infrastructure projects following last year’s flooding.
During the event programming, the forum also heard from President and CEO Jeff Finkle of the International Economic Development Council and Executive Vice President Suzanne Vega of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“Through our new State Commerce Leaders Forum, we envision an effective clearinghouse for addressing the economic priorities that are important to all of us as state leaders,” Secretary Pierson said. “By communicating more effectively among ourselves, we will be able to establish a clear voice that speaks to federal leaders about the policies and programs than can stimulate our state economies and contribute to a more productive U.S. economy. We will not simply be looking inward, but we also will advance solutions that improve our performance on the import-export and foreign direct investment fronts.”
LED Secretary Pierson helped organize the group and its first meeting at the nation’s capital. Participants in the initial forum included commerce secretaries, or their designees, from Michigan, Missouri, Utah, Minnesota, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Colorado, Mississippi, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Washington, Rhode Island and Louisiana.
Confirmed by the U.S. Senate in February, Ross is the nation’s 39thCommerce Secretary. Forum participants discussed key federal topics with him, including funding for the U.S. Economic Development Administration, a part of the U.S. Department of Commerce that provides financial support for economic development projects; funding for Community Development Block Grants that build economic capacity throughout the nation; budget support for the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership that funds services for small- and medium-sized manufacturers throughout the 50 states and Puerto Rico; and the impact of federal trade policy on state economies.
The State Commerce Leaders Forum also heard from research experts, including Mark Muro, a senior fellow in the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. Muro addressed how states can better manage disruption in a changing national economy. Daniel Mitchell, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, discussed America’s fiscal challenges while IEDC’s Finkle provided an overview of the federal budget outlook.
As a working group, the State Commerce Leaders Forum will meet regularly in the future and act decisively on key issues that affect economic development, employment, global trade, domestic investment and foreign direct investment in the states.