Office of Intergovernmental Affairs Blog

  • Growing Green - A Capital Idea

    Main Street Redesign_Little Rock

    A redesign option for Main Street in Little Rock that incorporates rain gardens and improved crosswalks. (Courtesy the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) August 29, 2011. (by Environmental Protection Agency)

    Over the last year, federal, state and city workers in Little Rock, Arkansas, have been working with residents and businesses to develop design ideas that turn vacant lots into pocket parks, line streets with mini gardens, and expand an existing trolley line. Along with making the city a healthier place to live and work by cutting back pollution and capturing stormwater, these green changes also bring the potential to attract new businesses and new jobs to the area, all while facilitating new and better housing and transportation choices for families.

    Little Rock looks forward to the day when a bustling Main Street will connect to the newly-revitalized River Market District – which after years of decay now boasts new parks, businesses, homes and museums, thanks to public and private investments and smart design concepts now being replicated throughout the city.

    EPA has been part of Little Rock’s progress through our Greening America’s Capitals program, an effort to help America's capital cities turn their visions of a more prosperous future into reality. Across America, EPA is partnering with communities to not only improve our health and the health of our environment, but also to create places where businesses want to invest and families want to live and grow.

    This month we announced five additional partner communities participating in the Greening America’s Capitals program: Montgomery, Alabama; Phoenix, Arizona; Washington, DC; Jackson, Mississippi; and Lincoln, Nebraska. These capital cities join Little Rock and a host of other cities throughout the nation in our work to create jobs, enhance the quality of life for residents and use public investments wisely through sustainable design and green development. 

    Greening America’s Capitals is just one of the many actions we’re taking through our Partnership for Sustainable Communities, a collaboration with the Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Transportation. This partnership recognizes that our communities benefit when we work together to align our transportation investments with our affordable housing investments and our environmental protection efforts. This smart approach to growth makes it easier for residents to live closer to jobs, schools and recreation, saving households time and money in transportation costs while reducing pollution and making cities more economically and environmentally sustainable.

    Bob Perciasepe is the Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency

  • Arizona Education Leaders Come to Washington DC to Discuss Education Policy

    The Obama Administration continually seeks opportunities to meet with state and local stakeholders, whether in Washington DC or in communities across the country. The White House and the Department of Education recently hosted a group of education leaders from across the country. Arizona State Senator David Schapira was part of the group and shared an overview of their day:

  • Local Leaders Discuss the President’s Rural Tour

    This week President Obama traveled through Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois holding town hall meetings with residents in rural communities.  We heard from several state and local officials who attended the events on the impact of the President’s Rural Tour and what it meant to their communities:

    Linn County Supervisor Lu Barron attended the Rural Economic Forum with the President in Peosta, Iowa:

    [The] forum was a true cross-section of rural America, including farmers, small business owners and local governments and it provided us the opportunity to discuss critical issues facing rural communities and bring them to the attention of the President and key administration officials. It’s important for all of us to work with the Administration to strengthen our rural communities so they can thrive.

  • Small Business Matchmaking: Keeping America Moving at Department of Defense Event in Orlando

    DOD-led small business procurement summit in Orlando, Florida

    Some 700 people, including 475 small businesses, participated in a DOD-led small business procurement summit in Orlando, Florida on Monday, August 8, 2011 designed to give small businesses insight into how to do business with the federal government. (Photo courtesy of the City of Orlando.)

    The Federal government procures over $530 billion in goods and services on an annual basis. President Obama is committed to ensuring that small businesses, including four key socioeconomic small business groups — small disadvantaged, women-owned, service-disabled veteran-owned, and HUBzone small businesses—have greater access to federal contract opportunities. As President Obama has said many times: “If we want to keep America moving forward, we need to keep investing in our small businesses.”

    As part of that commitment, the White House asked all the major federal agencies in January to conduct two high-level business-to-business matchmaking events around the country. Since then, a total of 18 Cabinet and Senate-confirmed administration officials have participated in 16 small business matchmaking events around the country, including in Atlanta, San Antonio, Huntsville, and Detroit. Over 6,000 small business owners have already participated in these events.

  • National Nuclear Security Administration Hosts Governors’ Staff for a Discussion on Our Partnership

    Last week, the National Nuclear Security Administration – which works to enhance global security through nuclear deterrence, nonproliferation, counterterrorism, naval nuclear propulsion, and national leadership in science, technology, and engineering – hosted a group of governors’ staff at its Emergency Operations Center to discuss opportunities to partner with governors to advance the President’s nuclear security agenda.  Given the reality of 21st Century radiological and nuclear threats, it is now more important than ever for NNSA to utilize the broad range of assets that federal, state, and local governments can mutually offer to ensure the security of the United States. Last week’s forum provided the opportunity to discuss how the NNSA and states are already in partnership  and set the stage for continued future dialogue regarding the most effective and efficient ways that federal and state partners can leverage individual capabilities to advance common goals. 

    As the NNSA works to ensure the safety and security of our Nation from radiological and nuclear threats, we also leverage our fundamental science, technology, and engineering base to solve some of the country’s most formidable challenges.   We are not advancing these national goals alone, however; we are doing so in partnership with states, industries and universities across the Nation.

    By partnering with states, NNSA is able to apply its technology and expertise to promote economic development within states.  One such successful private - public partnership is the New Mexico Small Business Assistance program, which provides state tax credits in exchange for NNSA to provide technical expertise and assistance to New Mexican small businesses attempting to overcome challenges.

  • Talking Jobs in Vancouver, Washington

    I recently co-hosted a White House Business Council roundtable with Vancouver, Washington Mayor Tim Leavitt.  The meeting took place in a newly-renovated building at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, now a beautiful public park that started out as a trading post founded by the Hudson Bay Company in the 19th Century.

    This roundtable was part of a series of meetings that senior Administration officials are hosting throughout the country to hear directly from business leaders on their ideas to create more jobs and grow the economy.  Senior Administration officials from nearly every federal agency have participated, as have representatives from a variety of sectors, including higher education, high-tech manufacturing, start ups, banks, real estate and construction firms. 

    During the Vancouver discussion, over 25 Vancouver business and community leaders highlighted the region’s economic development strategy, their downtown redevelopment plans, proposed infrastructure investments, and a public-private partnership with Washington State University that promotes new research and technologies.

    I heard several Vancouver business owners speak about the barriers posed by existing and new regulations.  One small business owner cited federal regulations as the most time-intensive and expensive aspects of doing business. We discussed the President’s plan for a 21st-century regulatory system, as outlined in his Executive Order on Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review, which calls for an administration-wide review of regulations already on the books to identify rules that need to be changed or removed because they are out-of-date, unnecessary, excessively burdensome, or in conflict with other rules. 

    Other Vancouver leaders called for a more streamlined approach and better coordination between agencies in the development and construction of infrastructure, a call that echoed the goals of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, an initiative that brings together DOT, EPA, and HUD to make more coordinated investments and remove regulatory and policy barriers to infrastructure and sustainable growth.

    Others asked for more resources to navigate the federal process and help connect startup business to capital, which led to a conversation about Startup America, the President’s initiative to celebrate, inspire and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship. 

    After the roundtable, I met with various elected leaders and visited the soon-to-be Vancouver City Hall, currently under the last stages of construction.  I want to take this opportunity to thank all of the business leaders and elected officials for taking the time to provide such thoughtful feedback. 

    David Agnew is the Deputy Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs