October 19, 2023

Ranking Member Titus Statement from Hearing on Federal Economic Development Commissions

Washington, D.C. — The following are opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, from Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Dina Titus (D-NV) during today’s hearing titled, “Regional Commissions: A Review of Federal Economic Development Program Effectiveness.”

Video of Titus’s opening statements is here.

More information on the hearing can be found here.

Ranking Member Titus:
Thank you, Chairman Perry. I am pleased that we are having this hearing today as it has been several years since the Subcommittee examined the regional economic development commissions.

Of the eight federal regional commissions and authorities, the five here with us today are active, functioning, funded, and staffed. Those are the Appalachian Regional Commission; the Delta Regional Authority; the Denali Commission; the Northern Border Regional Commission; and the Southeast Crescent Regional Commission.

A sixth commission, the Southwest Border Regional Commission (SBRC), is in the process of organizing and hiring staff. The Great Lakes Authority is inactive as it does not have a federal co-chair and has not yet received appropriations, and the authorization for the Northern Great Plans Regional Authority lapsed at the end of Fiscal Year 2018.

Among the active commissions, each received $20 million to $200 million for Fiscal Year 2023 to support their various economic development activities, which range from investing in basic infrastructure; energy; the environment and natural resources; workforce; and business development and entrepreneurship programs.

Though they are federally chartered, receive congressional appropriations for their administration and activities, and include an appointed federal representative in their respective leadership structures, the regional commissions are quasi-governmental partnerships between the federal government and their constituent states. This partnership structure allows for substantial input and efforts at the sub-state level and represents unique federal approaches to economic development – ones that are place-based, intergovernmental, and multifaceted in their programmatic orientations.

Federal support for regional economic development is crucial because we all have unique challenges. For example, during the pandemic, Southern Nevada experienced 33% unemployment due to our strong economic ties to travel, tourism, and outdoor recreation. Airplanes were empty, hotels and restaurants were closed, and entertainment venues were shuttered. This negatively impacted employment and local government revenues.

That is why I introduced the bipartisan INVEST in Our Communities Act, which will help promote economic development and resiliency to future disruptions in regions that rely heavily on the tourism economy, while also investing in workforce development programs to help fill the nearly 1.2 million open positions in its ancillary sectors.

The scarcity of water is also impacting my region, as cities and economic development agencies have to keep consumption top of mind when determining which businesses they want to attract to Southern Nevada.

As you can see, every region requires a unique approach for economic development, and for districts like mine which are not covered by a commission, there are still lessons that we can take away. That is why I am happy to be joined by our witnesses today and look forward to hearing your testimony. Thank you.