This is a very big deal for the city. For 12 months, 10 federal employees will live in Fresno and work alongside city leaders They will teach Fresno officials how to use the money we already have more wisely and show them how to obtain even more funding from the Federal government.
Flanked by local and federal government officials inside Downtown's Exhibit Hall, Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin praised the White House for taking notice of Fresno's potential growth opportunities. "Jobs and revitalization. That has been the intense focus of many people for the past 10 or 15 years in Fresno."
Fresno is one of six cities hand selected by the Obama Administration for the "Strong Cities, Strong Communities" pilot initiative. The other areas taking part are Chester, Pennsylvania; Cleveland, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; Memphis, Tennessee and New Orleans; Louisiana.
"His team was asked to select 6 cities that had great local leadership, that had economic needs that we thought would benefit from a federal, local partnership," White House Domestic Policy Council Director Mark Zuckerman said.
Federal employees from several different agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Agriculture will work out of City Hall. They're not providing money but rather their expertise on how to successfully apply for Federal grants and get local projects off the ground in order to create jobs.
John Fernandez, the Director of the Economic Development Administration said, "It's about smarter money. It's not about new programs,. But it's about better programs."
Mayor Swearengin has already compiled a long to-do list. Which includes, expanding industrial infrastructure, revitalizing Downtown Fresno's Fulton Mall, building a High Speed Rail station, and continuing to clean up areas, like the Lowell neighborhood.
"I feel sorry on one hand for the Federal officials assigned to Fresno, because we are going to get to work and we have a lot to do," Mayor Swearengin said.
Federal employees will officially move here in September. If the program is successful, the White House will likely expand the program to additional cities.