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U.S. Department of Commerce: American Rescue Plan Act, Build Back Better Regional Challenge

Deadline: October 19, 2021

The Build Back Better Regional Challenge (BBBRC) is a two-phase competition to (1) help regions develop transformational economic development strategies, and (2) fund the implementation of those strategies that will create and grow regional growth clusters. Such efforts will help regional economies recover from the pandemic and build economic diversity and resiliency to mitigate impacts of future economic disasters as well as benefit regional workforces and residents through creation of high-quality jobs, increased wages, and revitalized communities.

BBBRC aims to support regions in transforming their economy through groups of complementary, aligned construction and non-construction projects. The projects should be organized under a singular vision to support industry growth across the region. Interested regions should form regional coalitions, in coordination with private sector partners and other partners. Funded projects could catalyze wage growth, increased economic growth, the creation of a new industry, and/or the scaling or growth of existing industries in their region. The identified projects should foster economic growth and competitiveness through job creation, capacity building, and attracting private investment.

Eligible activities include: construction for entities such as water and sewer system improvements, industrial parks, shipping and logistics facilities, business incubators and accelerators, brownfield redevelopment, technology-based facilities, food aggregation, processing and distribution centers, wet labs, multi-tenant manufacturing facilities, science and research parks, transportation enhancements, and telecommunications infrastructure (e.g., broadband) and development facilities. This also includes non-construction activities such as design and engineering, technical assistance, economic recovery strategy development, entrepreneurial support, demand-driven workforce training, new academic curricula, market feasibility studies, and the capitalization of revolving loan funds (RLFs).

BBBRC will be administered in two phases:
* In Phase 1, Technical assistance grants will be awarded to 50-60 coalitions. These coalitions will be considered “finalists” and the grants will be used to prepare more detailed applications for transformational projects that benefit their respective geographic regions and are aligned around a holistic approach to building, strengthening, or scaling a strategic industry or industries.
* In Phase 2, 20-30 of the finalist coalitions will receive $25,000,000 – $75,000,000 (and potentially up to $100 million) to fund the projects they identified. Projects will be funded through grants to coalition members.
BBBRC has a focus on providing assistance to coal communities negatively impacted by changes in the coal economy. These communities need projects and activities that:
(A) Will produce multiple economic and workforce development outcomes, such as promoting regional economic growth and diversification, new job creation, and re-employment opportunities for displaced coal economy workers; and
(B) Are specifically identified under local and regional economic development plans that have been collaboratively produced by diverse local and regional stakeholders.
In Phase 1, applicants should form regional coalitions and collaborate to develop a Concept Proposal that outlines a vision for the development or expansion of a new or existing regional industry or industries as well as a collection of 3–8 potential projects designed to support that vision. The Concept Proposal must articulate the coalition’s proposed vision and possible outcomes for the cluster; articulate how the proposed cluster will meet the four key elements of a successful cluster (Regional Assets, Industry Leadership, Sustainability, and Equity); and identify the lead institution, coalition members, and additional existing or potential cluster partners.

Amount: $30,000,000 is available to make up to 55 awards of up to $500,000 for Phase 1. At least $100 million of the funds will go to communities negatively impacted by changes in the coal economy. Phase 2 awards are expected to range from $25,000,000 – $75,000,000.

Eligibility: Regional coalitions may apply. Applicants should identify one key coordinating lead institution per regional cluster. Coalition members eligible to apply for investment assistance for their region include a(n):
* District Organization of an EDA-designated Economic Development District
* Tribes or a consortium of tribes
* State, county, city, or other political subdivision of a state, including a special purpose unit of a state or local government engaged in economic or infrastructure development activities, or a consortium of political subdivisions
* Institution of higher education or a consortium of institutions of higher education
* Public or private non-profit organization or association acting in cooperation with officials of a political subdivision of a state

Link: https://eda.gov/arpa/build-back-better/

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