Mich., La. Foundations Win $100 Million to Advance Mobility, Hydrogen Tech


President Biden has unveiled the 21 winners of the $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge. Funded by President Biden’s American Rescue Plan and administered by the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), the regional economic development competition provides each award winner funding to rebuild regional economies, promote inclusive and equitable recovery, and create thousands of good-paying jobs in industries of the future such as clean energy, next-generation manufacturing and biotechnology.

The Global Epicenter of Mobility (GEM) coalition, led by the Detroit Regional Partnership Foundation, will receive approximately $52.2 million to transform the Detroit area’s legacy automotive industry into a highly competitive advanced mobility cluster. The EDA funding will help with a new Supply Chain Transformation Center, through which the coalition will provide direct assistance to existing legacy manufacturers to transition to the needs of broader mobility products.

The Mobility Accelerator Innovation Network will help identify and support more fundable start-ups in the mobility space. EDA funding will support foundational infrastructure, increasing accessibility and capacity of testing and proving sites, and preparing industrial sites for private investment. GEM unites 136 coalition members: the Big Three automakers; United Auto Workers; universities; and state, local and community leadership.

H2theFuture, led by the Greater New Orleans Development Foundation, will receive approximately $50 million to transition the regional hydrogen energy sector by closing the cost gap between green hydrogen, produced from renewable energy sources, and other forms of hydrogen used today, which rely on fossil fuels.

EDA funding will support The Nexus Center, which will coordinate a range of programming that advances regional economic competitiveness in the clean energy space while also centering equity as a core value (e.g., an inclusive entrepreneurship program; an HBCU New Energy Specialization to position students from the region’s four Historically Black Colleges and Universities as hydrogen industry leaders in business, public policy and law; and a workforce training and apprenticeship program).

Awardees span 24 states and will receive between $25 million and $65 million to execute transformational projects and revitalize local industries. Projects include developing workforce training programs and connecting workers to jobs; providing support to family-owned manufacturers to transition from traditional automotives to electric vehicles; establishing a digital finance sector to support small businesses in Tribal communities; providing digital resources to small farms; renovating and repurposing industrial buildings for new businesses; rebuilding pharmaceutical supply chains in the U.S. to lower drug costs; building advanced manufacturing centers for testing and training; deploying solar energy on former coal land; and more. Additionally, private sector companies and local organizations are investing an additional $300 million in these local projects.

“Since day one, President Biden has been laser-focused on ensuring that economic opportunity is delivered to all Americans, especially communities that have grappled with decades of disinvestment or suffered economic distress exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic,” states U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “As we invest and grow critical industries in the U.S., we want to create industry hubs in diverse communities across the country. These grants will provide critical and historic funding directly to community coalitions to invest in new infrastructure, research and development, and workforce development programs while creating good-paying jobs, supporting workers, and prioritizing equity.”

Over $270 million of the funding will be allocated to develop workforce training and development programs and place workers in jobs.

“EDA is proud to ignite the bold visions of these 21 regional coalitions to craft ambitious and regionally driven plans to rebuild their communities,” says Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo. “EDA asked communities directly what they needed to attract industry and workers to their region, and these grants are a direct response to their needs. Not only will the projects offer clear pathways to good jobs and competitive wages, but they will ensure that economic-based prosperity reaches all pockets of this country.”

The 21 BBBRC winners were chosen from 60 EDA-designated finalists that each received approximately $500,000 in funding and technical assistance to continue developing their cluster strategies. The funding for each coalition is approximate, with awards to be signed later in September. Those 60 finalists were chosen from a Phase 1 applicant pool of 529 applications, which exemplifies the tremendous demand for transformational regional economic development approaches. EDA will continue to support all 60 finalists with the creation of a community of practice that will provide technical support, foster connectedness with peer regions, and build capacity.

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