Craig Buerstatte on how Commerce helps American business (S3E24)

Some in politics have called for the elimination of the Department of Commerce. As Craig Buerstatte, the deputy assistant secretary for regional affairs for the The Economic Development Administration explains, that would be a mistake. His group has one mission, to support communities, cities, towns, rural areas and their efforts to improve their business and economic environments. Just listen to the range of help his office provides.


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Craig Buerstatte: Economic development really is all about benefiting people. We want to help stimulate the formation of good jobs. We want to create economic opportunity for communities all across America.

Getting economic development right means focusing on a place based, bottom up approach. Or do you want to just give someone some resources, cross your fingers and hope they succeed? No. We want to make sure that we can help be partners and thoughtful stewards of these resources to ensure maximum success going forward. Your government, it’s your neighbor. It’s your family member.

It’s your friend. Your government is supported by and operated by an amazing, diverse set of American citizens. And we’re trying our best to do.

David Martin: Imagine an entire federal government agency with two goals, just two goals to put people to work and to stay economically competitive. Sounds like good government to me. Welcome to the Good Government show. I’m your host, Dave Martin. On this episode of The Good Government Show, we’re going to hear a lot about an agency that sole purpose is to help support business and communities.

I’m talking about the Economic Development Administration. I had an interesting conversation with Craig Buerstatte. He’s the deputy assistant secretary for regional affairs. It’s his job to make sure his staff is meeting the needs of rural areas, cities, old Rust Belt towns and other parts of the country that are looking to revitalize their communities. In part, the mission of the EDA says, and I quote, to lead the federal economic development agenda.

And it goes on to say again, quote, And preparing the nation’s regions for growth and success. We talked about two specific new programs. One was send consultants out into different parts of the country to help support new economic programs. The other creates a support community to help work with multiple agencies to bring in a wider scope of support from around the country and help share better ideas.

So if you’ve ever wondered what the Department of Commerce really does or what some of these smaller agencies actually do, well, get ready to be impressed because the Economic Development Administration has just one goal to put Americans to work in the competitive national and international marketplace. Like I said, good government. So join me for my conversation after this short break.

The good government show is sponsored by NACO. That’s the National Association of Counties County Government. It’s actually the oldest form of government in the United States, and it touches more people directly. Roads, highways, hospitals, schools, recycling law enforcement, water and sewers in most of the country, those services are maintained by the county that’s county government. Naco is a nationwide organization that represents all 3069 counties across the USA.

NACO helps county government work better together through things like sharing best practices. Because when county government works well, well, that’s just good government.

Welcome to the Good Government show. I’m your host, Dave Martin. And I have with me today Craig Buerstatte, Buerstatte. Have I said that correctly?

Craig Buerstatte: Yeah you now the Dave Thank you.

David Martin: Thank you. From the U.S. Department of Commerce. And if you would, please give us your title and you’re with the Economic Development and Administration, give us your title and tell us what you do.

Craig Buerstatte: Yeah. Thanks so much for having me, Dave. I’m the deputy assistant secretary for a regional affairs at the U.S. Economic Development Administration and as the Das for regional affairs. That means I cover down on our regional operations and the programs that we deliver across our field staff. EDA has six regional teams across the nation embedded in our communities to deliver our programs.

It’s exciting work day to day. That’s what I do.

David Martin: So on the good government show, what we like to do is we like to highlight good government projects and programs that work and benefit people across the nation. This seems to be your mandate. Is that.

Craig Buerstatte: Correct? Absolutely. Economic development really is all about benefiting people. We want to help stimulate the formation of good jobs. We want to create economic opportunity for communities all across America. As I shared, our our six field offices are covering down on all 50 states and nine territories. So one thing I love about my job is that I genuinely get to work on and see challenges on any given day, ranging from coastal economic development in the Northwest to maybe agriculture or based economic development in the Midwest.

I think the first portfolio.

David Martin: So I don’t know if this is related or not, but I listen to a couple of podcasts about the creation of Ben and Jerry’s and they give all credit for their growth to different government projects from the Department of Commerce. Are you familiar with their story?

Craig Buerstatte: I’m not deeply familiar, but yes, I know enough that they benefit a ton from smart small business support. Right. That led to big business, right?

David Martin: Correct. And I think they also they had there was some type of mentorship program that they joined and got like a retired CEO who advised them, you know, as they were growing up. But if you you know, I listen to this podcast and they gave all credit to the Department of Commerce. Is this is this a typical story across the nation from other small businesses?

Craig Buerstatte: Well, Ben and Jerry’s, for starters.

David Martin: It is They’re they’re in a whole other league. Yes, it is.

Craig Buerstatte: It is a delicious story, whether it’s a typical story. We certainly strive to support that type of business growth all over the nation. And I think, yes, our our programs and efforts are supporting that type of business growth at all levels and again, in all industries, too. It’s so funny. Your e-commerce.

David Martin: I believe, said to the Department of Commerce is one of the smaller departments in the U.S. government. Is that correct?

Craig Buerstatte: It might be fair to say we’re somewhere in the middle of the pack. Okay. Got me on that one. At the economic development Administration. And I can share that we are a 350 person bureau. That’s a small but mighty. Yeah.

David Martin: So one of the new programs I heard that that you have started in the last year is something called the Economic Recovery Corp. This sends 65 people out into America. Tell me a little bit about this program and tell me how this works.

Craig Buerstatte: Yeah. So first off, David, getting economic development right means focusing on a place based bottom up approach and supporting strategies that work and are uniquely supportive for places like Alaska, places like Florida. And the Economic Recovery Corps was funded through some unique programing where we think invested a little over $30 million to create a national effort to place and embed recovery Fellows early to mid-career economic development professionals into organizations working on strengthening economic development capacity where we need economic development the most are places that are distressed, that have experienced maybe major natural disasters hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, places where business operations have been disrupted, possibly due to trade manufacturing shifts, supply chain changes.

And to do thoughtful planning to help communities create business capacity, whether it’s through workforce development, entrepreneurship support, technical assistance to innovation centers, helping bring technology and ideas to market. That takes capacity. It takes people. We are a people business. And through the Economic Recovery Corps, you nailed it. We hope to place 65 or more silos across the nation into organizations working to grow their respective regional economies.

Now, what’s cool about this, and maybe one thing I’m most excited about is we as a nation are going to benefit from that network, the network of 65 different silos. I know we’re going to get some incredible insights on rural economic development, on technology based economic development. I’m distressed economic development in urban cores. We hope to create different groups of specialists where we can learn in cohorts and gain some true national insights in different types of practices of economic development and different types of communities where economic development can be challenging.

David Martin: So I would imagine that if you’ve got people embedded in different communities, rural communities, metropolitan communities, north, south, east, west, one of the things that I would imagine is a benefit here is that they can share best practices. So if a guy’s in Montana where they’ve got a similar problem to something in West Virginia and they say, Hey, this worked here, it’s easy to cross-pollinate.

Craig Buerstatte: And you take, you know, change, you know, work.

David Martin: I did my work.

Craig Buerstatte: We know that local government and state governments and nonprofit organizations, philanthropies, the people doing this work are almost always strapped for resources. And they’re so focused on maybe doing the mission locally. It’s hard to connect with folks outside and not have to reinvent the wheel. Earlier, I talked about coastal economic development in the Northwest. We want to create an opportunity for folks in the Northwest that are doing economic development in Washington, maybe the seaport there to connect with folks in the southeast that might be doing similar type of economic development in the Gulf of Mexico, let’s say in New Orleans or Florida and Tallahassee.

We want to avoid having to reinvent the wheel, right. Share resources across our nation, because there are absolutely incredible commonalities. And as I often think about the fourth industrial revolution and the big change coming with all this technology, we’re all in this together, frankly, we’ve got a lot to learn and let’s do it to go big and go far.

We should we should work together.

David Martin: So are are you are is EDA targeting the communities you want to serve or have did they apply for this and ask for the help?

Craig Buerstatte: So we haven’t launched our official recruitment yet. That will recruitment will consist of both applicants for host organizations, organizations and communities to host these recovery fellows, as well as the fellows, the individuals themselves. So we’ll be looking to do an application process, launch a national search for both parties, and I hope we get some really compelling posts and follow candidates so we can kind of pair folks and make it really strong.

David Martin: So how does how does a municipality or a government, how do they apply?

Craig Buerstatte: So we will be launching fairly soon, in the coming couple months or so, maybe look out in the next 6 to 8 weeks, I hope, where we’ll be design. We’re finalizing our application process and have a national average placement. So no application process yet. Okay,  Sign up to our website, a newsletter letter at V.A..

David Martin: And I saw somewhere in all of this that your partners with Naco on some of the on one of the economic recovery initiatives.

Craig Buerstatte: Yeah, yeah, yeah. The Economic Recovery Corps. Yeah. They are a key partner, the National Association of Counties, Naco. No one. There are few organizations that represent our local governments and local communities needs better than Naco. So Naco is a strategic partner among six other key partners in this. Yeah, I.

David Martin: Saw. I saw the list of. Do you want to run down the list? You have him and I.

Craig Buerstatte: Oh, boy, you guy.

David Martin: Well, I have a I have a list here. The Center for Rural Innovation, the International City County Management Association, NACO, of course, the National Association for Development of Organization Research Foundation. That’s a mouthful. National League of Cities and Regional Accelerator Innovation Network. It sounds like you’ve got the country covered.

Craig Buerstatte: That’s right. This is a big effort. And we, as I said earlier, are we to go far? You don’t do it alone. And in this coalition, we know this coalition is designing a really exciting strategy. And again, we’ll be we’ll be releasing the official recruitment very soon here.

David Martin: So on our show, we highlight government projects that work. And, you know, there was an old line, Ronald Reagan is attributed to has said the scariest words are I’m from the government. I’m here to help. That is all you do. How do you combat that sort of perception of like, oh, another government project? Oh, yeah, you’re going to come in here and show us what to do and then leave, you know, like, how do you how do you fight that, that image?

Craig Buerstatte: I think I try to embrace our economic development philosophy, which is designing strategies that can meet the needs of communities where they’re at focusing on delivering services, delivering investment programs that are flexible and adaptable to our very diverse 50 state nine territory nation. And that is a principle in our program delivery, but also a principle in how we operate as an organization.

We do not have the answers for all of our various diverse economies, right? But we want to create the conditions so that they can participate and access federal resources, so they can implement their goals, so that they can implement their strategies and plans and ultimately build the right solutions for them. And that’s just really part of our culture.

It’s our program delivery, but it’s also how we operate.

David Martin: Is there an area that ADA focuses on over others are or not?

Craig Buerstatte: That’s a great question, Dave. Well, I would say yes, we are very flexible in the area that we focus on is is opportunities that are going to create good jobs. We want to invest in the gaps or opportunities in the community that’s going to strengthen the conditions for businesses to grow. A couple quick examples. Sometimes that community might have a growing need for a stronger, more diverse workforce.

Perhaps there’s a manufacturing sector that’s growing and they need to upskill or train new workers for those manufacturing firms to compete. Ideas can come in and help support workforce development programs. Maybe there’s a community that has had a long term tentpole type of industry or employer that is transitioning, transitioning into in the former less competitive and a shrinking.

Maybe they’re transitioning to a different state or transitioning maybe even outside the nation. And we need to diversify that economy. How can we make informed new businesses, possibly even in new industries? We do that through entrepreneurship. Help support the formation of startups growing in cool places. Like I was just in Omaha, Nebraska, a while back. Nebraska known for its agriculture.

But guess what’s also happening there? Robotics. As agriculture technology becomes critically important to a competitive agricultural industry, they need to adopt artificial intelligence, robotics and other practices that are going to increase in or keep our agriculture industries competitive. So we’ll fill gaps depending on the needs of the economy, as long as it has a strong promise and commitment toward job creation.

David Martin: So the other initiative that I understand that you’re working on at Economic Development is a program called Communities of Practice. Can you tell me a little bit about what this is all about?

Craig Buerstatte: So this one has got to be another one of my most exciting projects here where we’ve put $28 million towards the formation of national networks and communities of practice across key verticals and themes in our portfolio. We have an exciting I talked about manufacturing just now. We have an exciting manufacturing community, a practice that is bringing manufacturing, economic development practitioners together across the nation to share practices and resources and ideas to our earlier discussion.

Avoid reinventing the wheel right. We’ve got an exciting workforce development community, a practices practice that brings together our Good Jobs Challenge grantees. That is a $500 million exciting workforce development effort focused on 32 different regions across the nation to help strengthen their work and drive increased outcomes and accelerate not just increase but accelerate those impacts. Those communities can see them sooner and certainly a larger.

The other thing that I’ll mention here is why this is good government. We’re how we like that.

David Martin: Bring it back to good government. Thank you.

Craig Buerstatte: Yes. Through these investments, we’re helping these communities increase the impacts of these investments. So not only do we want to invest in them, but we want to make sure that they have the mentorship, they have the resources, they have the planning, and they have the collaborative tools to help ensure those investments succeed. So do you want to just give someone some resources, cross your fingers and I’ll I’ll be succeed?

No, we want to make sure that we can help be partners and thoughtful stewards of these resources to ensure maximum success going forward.

David Martin: So I read a short set of release that you put out about communities of practice. Is this teams of people going into I think it’s like eight different regions. So it’s or is it one person or is it like a team that works together to help with the overall economic development?

Craig Buerstatte: It looks a little bit different depending on the community. Your practice, there’s eight communities of practice and depending on can you say.

David Martin: What those are? Can you say what those are?

Craig Buerstatte: So, oh boy, you’re going to test got manufacturing. We’ve got technology based economic development, we’ve got revolving loan funds, we’ve got workforce development, we’ve got our build back, better regional challenge. This is a huge cluster based economic development practice where we did community of practice, where we did $1,000,000,000 into 21 different regions and they’re collaborating across the nation to help drive economic development.

David Martin: Any cities or municipalities in particular, you can remember mentioned?

Craig Buerstatte: We are, yes, we’re in Buffalo. We’re just outside of Pittsburgh. We’re in Southern California. We’re in the southern and rural Oregon doing some awesome in Oregon. We’re helping commercialize and grow the cross laminated timber industry. Okay, So they can modernize the timber industry and keep them globally competitive in this new global market. We’re in Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, specifically in the life sciences, doing some cool stuff there.

And also in Tulsa, where there are some cool UAV UAS cluster efforts going on. There’s a number of them. I mentioned Omaha, Nebraska earlier, where we’ve got some ad tech and robotics work happening, growing those sectors in the Midwest.

David Martin: What’s going on in Buffalo.

Craig Buerstatte: Also MANUFAC it’s advanced manufacturing and robotics focused. We’ve got a great core asset and heritage of an industrial manufacture shrink down there in Buffalo, and we’re helping them modernize through some workforce training and some infrastructure investment so they can remain and grow their competitiveness in today’s market.

David Martin: I saw in communities of practice, I spent some time in West Virginia and I’ve talked to several county commissioners from West Virginia. So I’m sort of paying attention to the coal communities and the coal the transition away from coal. And I saw somewhere in all of this communities of practice that you’ve got $2.6 million budget for something called energy transition, which is part of the Coal Communities initiative.

Is any of that over in West Virginia? And what’s what good government are you bringing to the former coal country?

Craig Buerstatte: Yeah. So in West Virginia, we’ve got a number of different investments. The $2.6 billion that is supporting the coal or energy transition community, your practice is all about supporting the knowledge, sharing the practice, sharing in the connectivity across all of our coal investments or energy transition investments across the nation. So we want knows the number of different investments that we’ve made in West Virginia across the whole state, but specifically in coal country.

We want them to be able to learn from other coal transitioning and energy transitioning communities, whether it’s in eastern Kentucky. I’m looking up on my map here in my office. I could be even in Wyoming.

David Martin: Where the places are so.

Craig Buerstatte: Yeah, it’s really interesting. So what’s what I want to call out David on on energy transition. It’s not just about the mines and where it’s dug and produced. It’s also impacted a number of communities on the logistics and the supply chain, right? So we’ve got communities that have been impacted by that transition in Wisconsin and Illinois. And you know where I’m going right along the Mississippi, we’re used to transit a lot of coal.

So there are long tail economic impacts across the supply chain and energy transition right now. And we’re trying to help communities navigate that wherever they’re at. I talked about meeting communities where they’re at and the needs and whether your your supply chain economy has been impacted or you or you were a supplier or there’s a lot of ways to learn and grow.

And we don’t want to West Virginia, no one should be doing this alone. This is tough stuff. We want to bring the nation’s practitioners to bear here, and that’s what we can do through a strategic collaboration grant That’s only $2.6 billion.

David Martin: And I saw as part of the communities of practice you’re working with the National League of Cities. Is that to help target the places that need help the most?

Craig Buerstatte: So you’re asking me to, you know, my favorite part of the portfolio, Major one? Well.

David Martin: As I told you, I did my homework.

Craig Buerstatte: So whether it’s urban or rural, how I’ll answer that is the national of cities. They’ve got a tremendous asset and engagement capacity in our cities, no doubt. But economic development doesn’t just happen in cities. It also there’s an incredibly exciting stuff happening in our rural communities. So that’s why we have the National League of Cities and we have the Center on Rural Innovation, our quarry.

So we want to find ways. And this is a really interesting point that I’m thrilled about in today’s market, an economy, we want to find more ways to integrate urban to rural, rural, rural to urban and share practices. But also we want to recognize that, well, it works and is impactful in an urban core isn’t necessarily going to work in a rural community.

So we want to design this again to be flexible and help meet the needs of all of our unique communities, no matter the geography, the typography, the industry and more.

David Martin: Well, my point in bringing that up is it it appears that you have multiple partners at multiple levels, rural, urban, you know, throughout the country that you’re partnering with to provide the services that you offer? Is that is that the goal? Is that is that what we’re doing here? Yeah.

Craig Buerstatte: Have absolutely so okay good government we talked about Ben and Jerry’s in that delicious business success story. Yeah. I will say that economic development is a team sport. To get a business up and going, you need an idea. You need a product that might need an inventor. And to do that, you might need a lawyer, you might need some technical assistance, some prowess, some mentorship, you need sales, you need a workforce, you need investment capital, you need infrastructure, you need a place to put that business.

And once you have infrastructure and you’re building a business, I mean, a supply chain, something or a manufacturing way, you need a place to ship it, sell it, get it out there in the market. There’s so many different inputs into a successful business, and I think that is reflective also also of the needs of smart economic development to do this right.

We can’t do this in a silo. We can’t do this just in the workforce front. We can’t do good economic development just through business support. When you good infrastructure, it’s about the places, the infrastructure, it’s about the people, the workforce. And yes, it’s about the businesses and the ideas that drive that energy. So the coalition you see, I think reflects that spirit.

It reflects the best assets of America and covers the full geography and the swath of industries and opportunities that our economy represents.

David Martin: If you have a small business and you are working on your own small business and trying to get it off the ground and meaning with some level of success or frustration, is there a way just to call economic development and get help?

Craig Buerstatte: I wish we could do that if that’s what you need. If that’s what you need, though, I would highly encourage you to check out our friends and partners over at the Small Business Administration. They do support businesses directly. Okay. So our focus this is a great question, though, Dave. Our focus to delineate what the SBA does, the Small Business Administration and what the Economic Development Administration does.

We work a layer above that. We want to make sure that if a business is starting, that there is a globally competitive, trained workforce in that region, in that community that can help grow that business as it be, as it achieves success. So we’re thinking about creating different conditions, whether it’s, yes, the workforce or creating access to capital so that businesses can access that, creating the conditions for technologies and ideas out of labs and research centers to come into the market.

But we’re not directly supporting businesses themselves. It’s it’s our grantees or so I should be more. Yeah, that’s helpful by share our grantees who we’re supporting. It’s nonprofit organizations. It’s local state governments, municipalities, workforce development boards, folks like that, those intermediary organizations.

David Martin: So so as I mentioned, I spent some time in West Virginia and I was, you know, driving around and I was I’d never been there before. I was in the heart of Appalachia. There are there are communities there that are dying, shut down a shadow of what they once were are those are the type of places that could contact economic development and work together to come up with a plan.

Craig Buerstatte: Yes, absolutely. And that’s where that’s where regrettably, David, that’s where a lot of our main work is. We we are often focused very heavily on helping these distressed communities that have this struggle with economic diversity. I mentioned I.

David Martin: Talked to kids and they said, you know, that was one of the places I went to was a lavender farm. They built a lavender farm on the top of an abandoned of of an abandoned strip mine on the top of the mountain. And I was talking to the people that work there and they said, Yeah, this is a great job.

It’s either here or maybe at McDonald’s or a convenience store. So they’re happy to have the jobs. So those are places that have problems.

Craig Buerstatte: In challenging any ends. It is a super challenging because it does take some time. And hey, you start with that that wind tunnel farm, lavender farm, or maybe growing strawberries or whatever else. Right. And and what else does that inspire? So all I can do something different right then and maybe some of those core employees grow out and become founders starters of new businesses and that sort of snowballing or evolution, evolution, organic evolution of growth in our economies are is really critical.

And that’s what our projects inspire.

David Martin: Well, and on that note, let’s get to the questionnaire. We have our questionnaire, a good government questionnaire. So we’re going to get your personal philosophy on government, as well as the Economic Development Administration’s philosophy on government. So the first question is what is good government to you? What’s your definition of good government from where you said at EDA, U.S. Department of Commerce.

Craig Buerstatte: We serve an incredibly awesome, diverse nation. Good government has to be flexible, adaptable and responsive to the needs of that very diverse nation. I talk about place based economic development, meeting, economic needs and communities, economic needs, where they’re at. I think I think about government the same way. We’ve got to be flexible and adaptable, responsive to our very diverse nation.

David Martin: And how do you what is your what is your how do you judge your success?

Craig Buerstatte: Oh, boy.

David Martin: Look up at this map of the world. Look up at the map of the wall.

Craig Buerstatte: Yeah. Yeah. I’ve got two answers for you there. One, I certainly want to strive for creating great jobs. Lots of them. That’s what we do here at EDA. We help communities create jobs in economic opportunity. But more deeply, for me, success is trust and inspiration in our federal government. I want I want us to be a great partner and inspire possibility.

To do that, we’ve got to deliver excellent service.

David Martin: And what can people do if they are in an area where they say, Oh, the government has abandoned us, no one cares. We’re out here in rural, wherever we are. What should they do?

Craig Buerstatte: Well, for starters, I would highly encourage folks to reach out to our field offices. If you go to Edgar’s and check out our contact page, we have team members embedded or supporting and our IT have dedicated support for all 50 states and nine territories. And if you’re if you’re struggling with economic opportunity, we’d love to know and hopefully figure out a way to support.

We also have a partners directory, as are third party organizations, whether it’s state and local economic development organizations, universities, centers of higher education that are supporting economic development. And there’s a lot of great information on our website that outlines who those partners are that are doing strategic planning, technical assistance and capacity building in our local economies. And those folks are also, while they’re not EDA, they’re thinking about this work day in and day out and great resources.

David Martin: Have you had occasion where you’ve gone in with an idea of, all right, here’s how we’re going to do this, or here’s our plan, and you’ve gone into the community and had to tear up the plan or rewrite the plan or alter the plan. Does that happen?

Craig Buerstatte: Yes. But I want to I want to clarify one point. Like we will never go in with a plan at the federal level and prescribe a strategy. We will go in with plans that are built by the community we in. We help communities invest in the resources, the strategy used and the technical assistance to design their own vision.

But yes, those visions and despite sometimes being developed locally, do change. Economic shifts happen unexpectedly. Regrettably, Dave, we’ve got more and more communities having to navigate very disruptive natural disasters, tornadoes right now. This tornado season is incredible. Yes, we’ve got communities entirely uprooted in Arkansas and kind of tornado alley up and through the Midwest. Hurricane season is always is always a tough hit for many of our communities.

And so, yes, what’s the old saying? Like, what’s the first thing that happens with a plan? It changes when you get ready. So, yes, and that’s the agility. We have to be agile, creative and responsive. We try to practice that culture here. An idea.

David Martin: You have. I read your bio briefly. You have a little bit of a history of public service and in government. What would you like people to know about how government works or doesn’t always work effectively? What would you like people to know about government?

Craig Buerstatte: Your government. It’s your neighbor, it’s your family member, it’s your friend. Your government is supported by and operated by an amazing, diverse set of American citizens. And we’re trying our best. So I hope that if you do feel that government is in meeting the moment rather than maybe griping about you, join us. I’ll tell you what you would never believe how rewarding and impactful a career can be until you’ve been in government and serving others.

You’re right, Dave. I have a couple of years here, both in the civil service on the regular side of government, but also the military and throughout my life I’ve never been more thrilled to wake up and get to work than when I was in the military. Or then when I’m serving in government. On the civil service side.

David Martin: You are a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Yes, sir. Now you work for the Department of Commerce. What inspired you to get into first the military and government service?

Craig Buerstatte: Well, as a graduate of West Point, I have to say the first and foremost thing that’s inspiring, as I always like being Navy itself is, but really, I was fortunate enough to have some great mentors growing up in high school that also served in the military and had really dynamic, exciting careers. They traveled the world. That’s what inspired me to pursue the military.

But what brought me to commerce was throughout my life, especially in my educational years in college, I studied economics. I’ve always been inspired and curious around what makes something work and systematically not as an engineer, but what makes the world turn. And more often than not, that’s that’s business. That’s money. And economic development is is all about bringing the systems and tools together to create business opportunity and ultimately prosperity at the local level.

And I joke and I tell folks sometimes that the Department of Commerce is the economy’s utility closet, not just E.T.A., but we have the Census Bureau, we have the NOA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The NOA oversees this.

David Martin: So one of my favorite operations. Yes.

Craig Buerstatte: Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, I.

David Martin: Check the weather every time.

Craig Buerstatte: When you think about commerce. Yes. What did it start on? It was trade over the seas. We had shipping routes and that’s where Noah started. It was so critical to have an understanding of our weather, our seas and our environment for good, reliable commerce. And since then, that has only become more important when we talk about the way transportation and trade routes work.

That’s why Noah exists at Commerce. So we’ve got a really cool swath of tools here at Commerce that help.

David Martin: Is the Coast Guard. So it’s the Coast Guard, so part of commerce, or they get transferred to Homeland Security.

Craig Buerstatte: The Coast Guard is over at Homeland Security now. But we do we do have a service corps at Noah that does a lot of unique deployments and engagements across really the globe to study, manage and oversee our oceans there.

David Martin: Do you have a growing up? Did you have a hero in government? Did you always think about getting into public service?

Craig Buerstatte: You know, I yes, I will say it’s hard to pick one, but I think I was always inspired by Theodore Roosevelt’s.

David Martin: Okay, you’re.

Craig Buerstatte: Right. President Roosevelt. I can’t say that I was named after him. But Theodore is my middle name. And it’s that dynamic, adventurous career that he had in public service is is pretty cool and inspiring. And to to serve in those different levels and ways. His is is something else. And I think having having contributed and served in the military and now in the civil service side, I certainly try to practice that kind of mindset in my own career, diving into adventurous challenges.

And I’ve had some very different chapters of public service in my life.

David Martin: So usually this is a good question that we ask of politicians who get to talk about their home city. I think you told me you were you’re from Chicago or the Chicago area originally. You served in Iraq out there in Washington, DC, Duke University in North Carolina. We’re going out to dinner. What are you cooking? What do you make and what do we have it?

Where are. Where are you taking me?

Craig Buerstatte: Oh, my gosh. Yeah, it depends on where you are, where we’re going. But I’ll tell you what, Dave, I am super passionate about an on an underdog dish, pun intended, which is the Chicago style hot dog.

David Martin: All right, so what do you put in your hotdog?

Craig Buerstatte: Oh, it’s it’s truly it’s truly everything. So the Chicago style, it’s all beef dog, right out of pocket. It’s not a poppy seed bun. It’s got a full pickle wedge. It’s got sliced tomatoes, sliced onions, relish. I like to throw some jalapenos on that. And when I feel and really crazy, I’ll also do some pepper cheese, banana peppers.

But here’s here’s the kicker that you’re loyalists, those dedicated fans know that a Chicago dog, you never disrespect a Chicago dog with ketchup. You only straight yellow mustard on it. But people tell me you’re crazy for getting so excited about a hot dog. Go knock it till you try it. That is by far one of my favorite surprise dishes.

And I’m always happy to treat and summers around the corner, so I’ll be doing a bunch of them this year.

David Martin: Do you are there a place in D.C. you could do that? I mean, you know, densest. Maybe the closest lake.

Craig Buerstatte: Now where can I get a good D.C. dog or a good Chicago dog in D.C.? Ben’s your backyard? Yeah, Ben’s Chili Bowl does have them. And, you know, frankly, I. I don’t. I can’t say I can’t list you awesome places because I make them in my yard. I prefer to make them on my backyard grill.

David Martin: Right. So somebody said somebody from Harvard said that said a couple of packages and you’re good for this number, right? That’s right. So, you know, you did you growing up, did you aspire to be in government? You know, you talked about the military. Did you think this is where you were headed? Were you like class president?

Craig Buerstatte: And. No, I was I never I never truly envisioned a long term career in government. I think I always gravitated towards helping others, though, and having a career of impact, which did start in my military service years for sure. And I did. When I transitioned out of the military, I did jump into the private sector. I started a business for a while and had a business for a while.

But when I focused internally on, you know, what gets me excited on a day to day basis is is truly just helping others and having an impact. And there’s no better place. I believe it leads to a better place to do that than inside government. Yes. For those of you listening to the government, it’s tough. But it is.

It is it is tough to change. Government is always not always the fastest mover. But I think that is why it’s worth the challenge, because when you can change government, you can improve it and you do get things right, you have such an impact, it’s so needed and it’s just fine.

David Martin: So we have just a few minutes left. It says here that you have an evergreen garden on Capitol Hill. Can you explain that?

Craig Buerstatte: Yeah. So I have what some gardeners would refer to as a postage stamp yard. Okay. It is. It is a classic row home unit where I have I think my my yard is 40 feet long by 15 feet wide and grew up.

David Martin: And sounds about right.

Craig Buerstatte: Yeah. Yeah. Exactly Half of which is a parking pad and it abuts. It’s adjacent to a brick alley. So when I moved in about seven years ago now, there was just a lot of hot gray concrete in the summertime. It’s like, I need some greenery here. If I’m going to do it, I want to enjoy it year round.

And that’s when I started exploring and got connected to my little passion hobby, which is collecting a dwarf evergreens, I probably have like 25 different evergreens from Japan, Korea. It’s really cool places in the Northwest. And the reason being is they’re all small and slow and they’re smaller. And in that postage stamp yard of 40 feet by 15, I can I can get a lot of a lot of bang for for the size.

David Martin: And you can have a Chicago dog in the shade of an evergreen tree.

Craig Buerstatte: Bingo. And it is green year round so I can I can enjoy that Chicago dog in December to celebrate.

David Martin: What are you going to get out and do some fishing on your kayak?

Craig Buerstatte: It is striper season there running up the Potomac right now through probably early May. So I hope to get out a couple more times before things slow down and it warms up in May. So I do like to go right out just actually just right out there. I Oh, my. Only four miles.

David Martin: All right. Well, this has been a really interesting discussion. I’m I’m really excited about the fact that, you know, there is a whole government agency whose sole purpose is to provide good government help for citizens. Yeah, that’s what you do. That’s. That’s it. So we are going to talk again, because I certainly want to explore some of these projects in greater depth.

I would I would love to reconnect with you on that.

Craig Buerstatte: So to tell you now.

David Martin: Craig Buerstatte, thank you so much for joining us on the Good Government show. Thanks for the conversation. Great to meet you and great to have you with us.

Craig Buerstatte: Awesome to be here. Thanks, Dave.

David Martin: Thank you.

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There’s so much going on with EDA. It’s hard to summarize all the work that Craig Burr study is running. But each project starts at the same place. How Can the federal government help? Then they gather effective partners like Naco and the League of Cities to name just two. And they go to work. The idea was given a $1.6 billion budget by Congress.

That money goes to support American workers, American business, American cities, towns and counties and all help drive our economic engine. That’s good government. So thanks to Craig Buerstatte at the EDA for talking to us. And Craig, good luck fishing in the waters around Washington. Join us again right here where you’re listening to this podcast for another conversation with another government leader talking about what good government means to them.

This is the good government show. I’m Dave Martin. Thanks for listening to the Good Government show and a conversation with is produced by Valley Park Productions. Jim Ludlow, David Martin and David Snyder are the executive producers. Our editor and producer is Jason Stershic. This is a good government show. Thanks for listening.


**This transcription was created using digital tools and has not been edited by a live person. We apologize for any discrepancies or errors.