Padilla, Aguilar Introduce Legislation to Expand EDA University Center Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), and Representative Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.-33) introduced the University Centers for Growth, Development, and Prosperity (GDP) Act. The legislation would codify the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) University Center Economic Development Program, increase the number of University Centers, significantly raise funding for each Center, and improve participation by Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs).

University Centers are federal partnerships that leverage the assets of higher-learning institutions to strengthen regional economic growth by promoting innovation, entrepreneurship, and job creation. California has three University Centers, including at California State University, Chico; California State University, Bakersfield; and the University of Southern California.

“Our higher education institutions play a critical role in our nation’s economic growth,” said Senator Padilla. “That’s why we must take action to codify and expand the University Center program, while also leveraging additional resources for Minority-Serving Institutions to support a greater diversity of innovation and entrepreneurship in their communities. The University Center program has been one of EDA’s most successful economic development initiatives, and I urge the Senate Environment and Public Works committee to include this critical legislation in their EDA reauthorization bill.”

“The University Center program has shown how our universities provide expertise and technical assistance to support regional economic strategies that result in more well-paying jobs, entrepreneurship opportunities and economic growth. This partnership between universities, businesses and the federal government has allowed us to maximize our resources and help build a stronger economy for hardworking Americans,” said Representative Aguilar. “I’m proud to be reintroducing this legislation with Senator Padilla to make this program permanent and ensure the economic benefits of regional cooperation reach communities with the greatest need, including the Inland Empire.”

Despite EDA’s important work, many communities across the country have yet to benefit from the agency’s programs, including smaller communities, communities of color, and rural areas experiencing higher rates of poverty. This legislation would ensure that the EDA prioritizes the participation of MSIs such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, Asian American and Pacific Islander Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges and Universities. This expansion will encourage economic development in economically distressed regions that are currently underserved by existing University Centers.

Senator Padilla recently highlighted several of his priorities for EDA reauthorization legislation during a hearing held by the EPW committee. In addition to the University Centers for Growth, Development, and Prosperity Act, Padilla has introduced the Office of Disaster Recovery and Resilience Act, which would establish a permanent Office of Disaster Recovery and Resilience within the EDA, and introduced the Economic Empowerment Through Predevelopment Act, which would authorize EDA to make grants or cooperative agreements available for planning and predevelopment of infrastructure projects to support communities across the country. He is also a co-chair of the first-ever Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) Caucus, which aims to educate Members of Congress about the contributions of and importance of allocating adequate resources to HSIs across the country and in Puerto Rico.

Full text of the bill is available here.


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