WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced Mahoning Valley native and former Youngstown mayor Jay Williams at a confirmation hearing of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW). Williams was nominated by the Administration for the post of Assistant Secretary for Economic Development at the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) but first awaits confirmation from the U.S. Senate.

Brown’s prepared remarks can be read in their entirety below:

Senator Brown’s Prepared Remarks for EPW Confirmation Hearing for Jay Williams as Assistant Secretary for Economic Development at the U.S. Dept of Commerce

December 17, 2013

Thank you, Chairman Boxer, for your leadership of this Committee – and for ensuring this confirmation hearing receives the orderly process it deserves.

I am honored to introduce Jay Williams – a devoted family man, a distinguished advocate, and committed public servant. My congratulations to Jay and his family – his wife Sonja, his mother, Mary, and his son, Ethan – who are with him here today.

I have had the pleasure of working with Jay over the past few years, first when he became mayor of Youngstown, Ohio in 2006.

Jay took the helm of a hard-hit city just a couple years before the recession hit. You could say the recession hit Youngstown years earlier than it hit a lot of other places.

Where others might run from those challenges, Jay runs towards them.

He worked with the city’s businesses, unions, and educators to put the city on a path towards economic renewal.

In 2011, Jay was instrumental in bringing Youngstown’s steel industry full circle, helping to secure a new $650 million steel plant on the shores of the Mahoning River, where smoke stacks of past plants once stood. In fact, he even travelled to Vallourec Steel’s headquarters in Paris to negotiate with the corporation’s owners to help bring this project to Ohio.

Just a few years after Jay became mayor, we saw how some elected officials were betting against the American auto industry.

They wanted our auto industry to go bankrupt.

Jay Williams was not one of them.

Born and raised on Youngstown’s East Side, he knows manufacturing is in the Mahoning Valley’s blood.

Jay was just 6 years old on “Black Monday” – the day Youngstown Sheet and Tube closed – leaving an entire region hemorrhaging thousands of jobs. He was born into a generation whose parents didn’t have careers connected to the steel industry.

He knows the economic impact the auto industry and manufacturing have not only on places like Youngstown, Morain, and Toledo – but across Ohio and the country – especially when those jobs are lost. And he knows the work it takes to rebuild the affected communities and to create good-paying jobs for future generations.

I was proud to work alongside Jay to keep Youngstown’s auto industry alive. Today, the General Motors Lordstown plant is operating three shifts and produces the best-selling Chevy Cruze.

Following the auto rescue, President Obama asked Jay to build on his good work in Youngstown, and help communities across the nation take the next steps toward a brighter future.

Since being appointed as the Director of the Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers at the Department of Labor (DOL), Jay has done an outstanding job working with federal agencies and local officials on environmental clean-up at former GM plants, and directing much-needed resources to struggling auto communities. 

And his economic experience doesn’t stop with manufacturing.

The Youngstown Business Incubator has attracted software start-ups from San Francisco and is leading the way in turning the Mahoning Valley into a high-tech hub.

Jay pushed to expand educational opportunities in the Valley – from a stronger Science, Technology, Engineering and Math or STEM School at Youngstown State University and establishing a community college branch campus in the Valley with Eastern Gateway Community College.

And, his Youngstown 2010 plan has caught the attention of cities across the country with its work to “right-size” the city by repurposing vacant lots and cleaning up blight.

Jay’s work sparked Youngstown’s renaissance, and that’s led to the beginning of Ohio’s comeback as an economic leader.

Jay understands the importance of manufacturing and appreciates the challenges facing auto communities and their many workers. He knows the real-world implications of unemployment, and that shuttered factories are not just statistics in a far-off community.

We need more officials in the Commerce Department who understand its decisions affect the lives of everyday Americans.

I know that his perspective as a child of Youngstown and public servant serves Jay well. I applaud President Obama for nominating Jay, and I believe that he will serve our nation well as the Commerce Department’s next Assistant Secretary for Economic Development.