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Administrator Doan Addresses Preserve America Summit

As prepared for delivery

Remarks by
Lurita A. Doan
Administrator
U.S. General Services Administration
Preserve America Summit
New Orleans, LA
October 20, 2006

 

Thank you and good morning.

Everyone always starts a speech by saying, boy. It’s great to be here.   But, in this case it happens to be true.

I’m from New Orleans, and it was so devastating to see my childhood home in the 9th Ward destroyed by floodwaters. I’ve been back several times since last year, and each time, I am struck by the resilient spirit of my fellow New Orleanians—we don’t let anything keep us down!

And so here we are today.

The Preserve America Summit, co-sponsored by GSA, has afforded us a unique opportunity to convene the nation’s leading preservation experts in one of the nation’s leading and most beautiful cities—not that I’m biased!

On September 2005, I doubt anyone could envision the New Orleans custom house serving as the venue for today’s event.  Only thirteen months ago there was:

- debris from Katrina collected on the roof;
- blocked  drainage;
- water gushing into the building;
- the roof collapsed;
- broken  sprinkler pipes; and
- the list goes on.

Today, it’s hard to believe the kind of shape we were in just a short while ago. Much work remains, but much has been achieved.

There was never any doubt that GSA would repair and restore this national treasure because historic preservation is an enormous part of what we’re about at GSA.

I so pleased we’re all here, meeting in a 125-year-old national treasure that so beautifully symbolizes GSA’s commitment to historic preservation…to urban reinvestment throughout America…and to the splendid and inspiring legacy buildings that help define who we are as a people and the heights to which we aspire.

GSA is often called the nation’s landlord, though it hardly describes the breadth of our role as the federal government’s premier procurement agency.

But let’s look at the landlord piece.

GSA’s Public Buildings Service, led by Commissioner David Winstead, is the largest real estate organization in the world!  

And David’s done a stupendous job in the year that he’s been on the job:

- Our inventory is enormous: 343 million square feet of workspace for 1.1 million federal employees in 2,100 American communities;
- Over 1,500 government-owned buildings;
- The Design and Construction Excellence Program enables us to get the best private sector architects, construction managers and engineers to design and build award-winning courthouses, border stations, federal office buildings and more;
- PBS also repairs, alters and renovates existing facilities;
-We run over 100 child care centers, which incidentally routinely out-perform private sector centers; and

- We are  a leader in energy conservation, sustainability, recycling, and, yes, historic preservation -- maintaining more than 400 properties in the government inventory.

Another little known fact:
PBS Commissions the country's most talented artists to create artwork for new buildings and conserves a substantial inventory of artwork from the past.

Indeed, it’s fair to say that each GSA property, like the custom house, is a symbol of American democracy.

One of the things I’ve done as Administrator is to create a new Office of Emergency Response and Recovery that  includes a Historic Preservation Division.

This is an area where I feel GSA truly can lead by example.  We’re the only federal agency that has the sheer number of conservators and appraisers who are dedicated to historic preservation and who are able to respond at a moment’s notice.

Speaking with John Nau and Dick Mole yesterday, I told them that during times of crisis in our country, GSA will now be able to dispatch appraisers and conservators and superb and committed leaders such as Rolando Rivas-Camp to ensure that recovery from a disaster not only includes the people and places but also our historic properties and artwork.

And, this is so marvelous--- GSA will be able to help with this service at a state and local level too.

 Because  thanks to the house and the senate, and President Bush who signed the bill last week, state and local governments will be able to use GSA’s services with federal grant money.

All of which gets me back to where I began – here at the custom house. We have:

- Selected and awarded a $30 million-plus contract to a New Orleans-based prime contractor;
- The firm’s design, mechanical and electrical subcontractors are all local; and
- As the process moves along, we will continuously review the subcontracting plans to ensure adequate participation by regional small businesses.

Restoring this American landmark is an excellent way to honor the 40th Anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act.

GSA remains committed to this vital legislation, and we will continue to build, renovate and preserve the legacy buildings that help define us as a nation.

I want to thank and congratulate First Lady Laura Bush for all she’s doing to promote public appreciation and understanding of America’s history.

I believe that the strength of our future potential as a nation is anchored in the solid foundations of our past—thank you for all you do to make this legacy available to future generations. 

For all that you have done to make this conference and this city a success, I thank you and god bless!