Connecting state and local government leaders

Trump Administration Seeks ‘New Vehicle’ For Economic Development

The White House, during August 2016.

The White House, during August 2016. Shutterstock/evenfh


Connecting state and local government leaders

An adviser to the president offered insight Wednesday into the White House strategy for places with distressed economies.

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration continues to consider ways federal economic development programs might be reinvented, an adviser to the president indicated Wednesday.

President Trump’s first budget proposal earlier this year called for cutting a variety of economic development initiatives, ranging from Community Development Block Grants, to the Appalachian Regional Commission. These ideas largely landed with a thud in Congress.

But Ja’Ron Smith, director of urban affairs and revitalization policy on the White House Domestic Policy Council, suggested the administration hasn’t abandoned themes it outlined in its initial spending plan.

“We phased out most economic development programs," Smith said, after referencing the budget, at an event cohosted by the Urban Institute and the Citi Foundation. The audience included people who work on economic development issues around the U.S.

He added: “The goal there is to create a new vehicle, where it combines the over 50 different economic development agencies into one type of hybrid entity. We’re trying to figure out what’s the best model."

"Where should it fit? Should it be in HUD, should it be in Commerce,” Smith continued, referring to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Commerce.

“I think we’re going to have a dramatic push towards figuring out a new way to do economic development.”

Smith also said some of his work is closely aligned with the infrastructure investment plan the administration has promised but not yet delivered and that the White House hoped to launch an "urban revitalization plan" sometime during the first quarter of 2018.

“I want to spend the next year traveling around the country, seeing the work that you all are doing," he told the audience at Wednesday's event. "We don’t have all the answers here.”

Bill Lucia is a Senior Reporter with Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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