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Coalitions from across the U.S., some led by cities and state and local agencies, are vying for federal grants worth between $25 million and $100 million.
The federal agency overseeing a new $1 billion grant initiative that is intended to drive regional economic growth announced 60 finalists on Monday that will proceed to the next stage of the application process and could eventually secure grants worth tens of millions of dollars.
Each of the finalists is a regional coalition, with lead applicants including cities, county and state agencies and universities, among other organizations. The U.S. Economic Development Administration, which is running the program, said it selected the coalitions that will proceed from a total of 529 applicants.
Applicants moving to the next stage of the program—dubbed the Build Back Better Regional Challenge—will receive about $500,000 to develop their proposed projects. Eventually, EDA will choose 20 to 30 coalitions to receive grants worth $25 million to $100 million to move ahead with their proposals.
The goal is to build and expand "regional industry clusters," with the grants helping to pay for planning, infrastructure, workforce development and other related costs.
"These projects will help revitalize local economies and tackle our biggest challenges related to climate change, manufacturing, supply chains and more," Alejandra Castillo, assistant secretary of commerce for economic development, said in a statement.
The finalists announced on Monday are spread across 45 states and Puerto Rico, and they include 12 "coal communities"—places that have taken, or are in line to take, a blow from declines in the coal sector. There's $100 million set aside specifically for coal communities.
Proposals submitted for the program cut across a range of industrial sectors and policy areas.
Newark, New Jersey is leading a coalition that wants to investment in port facilities and related workforce programs. A proposal out of Indianapolis aims to beef up the local food processing sector. And the Hopi Utilities Corp., in northeastern Arizona, is seeking support for a solar project in an area hit by a coal power plant closure.
EDA, which describes itself as the only federal agency focused solely on economic development, is managing billions of dollars of grant funding that flowed to the agency under pandemic relief laws. It's billing the regional grant program as one of its marquee initiatives.
A full list of finalists for the program can be found here.
Bill Lucia is a senior editor for Route Fifty and is based in Olympia, Washington.
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