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Department of Commerce’s Alejandra Castillo Addresses Connected DMV’s Regional Congress

U.S. Assistant Secretary lauds Greater Washington cross-sector nonprofit for collaborative and strategic approach to pursuing equitable economic development


December 17, 2021 (Washington, D.C.) - U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Castillo delivered the keynote address at yesterday’s DMV Regional Congress meeting. Castillo stressed the importance of ensuring that economic recovery programs include our most vulnerable communities. She also commended Connected DMV for their work in bringing all stakeholders together to advance key initiatives that help promote economic renewal and social equity in Greater Washington.


“The pandemic dealt a devastating blow to our local economies and communities, including our most vulnerable and underserved. The Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will provide the investments needed to help America build back better, and the Administration knows that we can only truly recover if programs have equity at their core,” said Assistant Secretary Castillo. “Connected DMV keenly understands this imperative and we commend them for the incredible work they have been able to accomplish in advancing key initiatives on behalf of the region in such a short period of time.”


In addition to providing an update on the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) programs to help communities across America recover and rebuild in the wake of the pandemic, Castillo echoed similar sentiments shared by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, who addressed the first DMV Regional Congress meeting, in terms of the critical importance of and need for regional coordination in the pursuit of federal funding.


“Regional economies like Greater Washington are interconnected in so many ways, including transportation, ensuring that all stakeholders are aligned on priorities that are both strategic and impactful to everyone who lives and works in the region,” added Castillo.


Connected DMV understands that delivering equitable economic opportunities for all who live and work in the region is a collective imperative. To this end, they announced We Are Greater Washington, a historic, first-of-its kind joint program office, in August 2021. It brings together economic development and planning organizations, industry, academia, philanthropy and community organizations to compete for emerging federal funding focused on regional equitable economic development across the DMV.


In October, Connected DMV, in partnership with Federal City Council, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area, was awarded $1.1 million by EDA to support the development of the DMV Regional Equity and Growth Playbook. This unique initiative aims to bring together all sectors in the DMV region to co-equally define and adopt a unified approach for delivering sustainable economic growth and social equity that benefits all communities in Greater Washington.


“Greater Washington is one of the most important economic, educational, political and cultural centers in the world, and as such we need to continue to demonstrate regional, national and global leadership on the most important issues and opportunities of our time. Doing so will enable government and philanthropic leaders to help fund and advance our most strategic initiatives at speed to build a stronger, more equitable and more resilient region,” said Stu Solomon, President & CEO of Connected DMV.


Yesterday’s meeting was facilitated by Sameer Bhargava, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Clark Construction Group, which is based in Bethesda, Maryland. Comprising more than 70 senior leaders from private industry, academia, community, philanthropy, and the public sector throughout Greater Washington, the DMV Regional Congress’ mission is to continue, for the long-term, pushing forward the advancements started by Connected DMV’s COVID-19 Strategic Renewal Task Force.


Mr. Bhargava also discussed the important role infrastructure plays in ensuring the long-term economic growth and vitality of the region. This is particularly timely as the newly enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provides another federal funding opportunity for Connected DMV, on behalf of the region.


“The Infrastructure Act represents significant opportunity for our DMV region, with funding for infrastructure innovation,” said Bhargava. “Our job as regional leaders is to secure funding for our critical infrastructure needs and ensure we invest for a clean, sustainable, and equitable future.”


The recently enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes $9.5 billion in funding for the Department of Energy to pursue clean hydrogen technology. In January, Connected DMV’s COVID-19 Strategic Renewal Task Force adopted a recommendation to proactively address climate change by establishing a state-of-the art Hydrogen Center that affirms Greater Washington as a national leader in the hydrogen economy and recognizes that without intervention, the future economic costs of climate change will be borne most significantly by already disadvantaged communities. Called the National Capital Hydrogen Center, the goal is to develop a comprehensive strategy and demonstration project that accelerates the market for and adoption of hydrogen-based solutions in the DMV.

The DMV Regional Congress attendees also heard from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ Executive Director Chuck Bean and Amy Liu, Vice President and Director of Brookings Metro and the Adeline M. and Alfred I. Johnson Chair in Urban and Metropolitan Policy.


About Connected DMV

Connected DMV is an initiatives-based, charitable 501(c)(3) organization that works with regional organizations across Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia – the DMV – to help drive ongoing improvements to social, digital, and physical infrastructure. Connected DMV focuses on initiatives that span local jurisdictions and require public-private-academia-community collaboration to best achieve the dual objectives of enduring economic health and social equity. Learn more: https://www.connecteddmv.org/