Brite’s $571,355 EDA Grant Will Support Expansion Efforts

WARREN, Ohio – Brite Energy Innovators will get $571,355 in coronavirus assistance funds it will use to add personnel and equipment.

The grant represents just under half of the $1.2 million in federal Economic Development Administration recovery assistance grants Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo announced for Ohio late Thursday afternoon. The agency also awarded $624,316 to the Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network, better known as Magnet.

Funds for the grants were provided through the first coronavirus relief bill passed last year. The Cares Act provided EDA with $1.5 billion for economic assistance programs to help communities prevent, prepare for and respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

“These EDA investments will deliver critical support to businesses seeking to build back better and stronger in a post-COVID economy,” Raimondo said in a statement announcing the grants. 

Brite, an energy-focused incubator in downtown Warren, will provide $155,699 in matching funds for the grant, which is expected to create 200 jobs, retain 150 jobs and generate $100 million in private investment, according to the announcement of the award. 

The majority of the funds will go toward providing expanded technical assistance and subject matter expertise to entrepreneurs, said Sara Daugherty, Brite’s director of partnerships. 

The grant comes at a “critical time,” she said, as Brite is experiencing a fourfold increase in demand already in 2021 on the heels of an increase last year as well.

“We’re in great need of bringing on more entrepreneurs in residence to mentor and guide our startups,” she said. Bringing on additional personnel will allow Brite to expand its reach and work with startups in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia, which it doesn’t have the capacity to do now.

Other grant funds will be used for equipment, including to enhance Brite’s energy lab, which opened in 2018. With the evolution of the “Voltage Valley” electric vehicle projects, there is a recognition of specific needs related to battery and fuel cell technology, so the grant funds will provide money to acquire equipment specific to that purpose, Daugherty said. 

Additionally, the money will be used to add a solar array to the incubator to increase testing capabilities of its microgrid. 

The $624,314 grant to Cleveland-based Magnet, which aids manufacturers in northeastern Ohio, represents the second such infusion of federal cash for the organization this week. EDA announced Tuesday that it was awarding Resilient NEO – a Magnet-led partnership that includes the Youngstown Business Incubator – $703,378 from a separate program to assist businesses in seven target counties, including Mahoning and Trumbull counties.  

Magnet is providing $156,079 in matching funds, with the intent of creating 100 jobs, retaining 500 jobs and generating $10 million in private investment. 

Magnet will focus on assisting small- and medium-sized companies with launching new products, utilizing new technologies needed to focus on new opportunities, reconnecting with customers, returning manufacturing jobs to the United States and improving security, said President and CEO Ethan Karp. 

The initiative will be “more Cleveland-focused,” just by the nature, of the program outlined in the application, Karp said. The federal funds will free up other money that can be used to provide the same type of assistance to companies throughout the region. 

“We can take money from elsewhere and start applying to other places like Youngstown, which is what we’re actively doing,” he said.      

Elected officials in Ohio applauded the grant awards in the EDA release. 

“Manufacturing in Ohio is an important part of our economy,” Gov. Mike DeWine said. “Targeted investments, like this grant, will continue to ensure that Ohio’s businesses remain resilient and emerge stronger from the pandemic.”

The 300-plus additional jobs the two organizations are projected to create in the region are “a perfect example of the return on investment we get when we invest in economies of the future,” said U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio.  

“It’s organizations like Brite that are leading the effort to foster startups driving innovation in energy tech and Magnet which assists and promotes Northeast Ohio’s manufacturing growth that help fuel Voltage Valley and advanced manufacturing for lasting economic impact,” he said. 

“We passed the Cares Act because we knew we had to put workers at the center of our economic recovery” said U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. “These investments will do just that by helping [Magnet] in Cleveland and Brite Energy Innovators in Warren keep more northeast Ohioans on the job as they recover for the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Added U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio’s Republican senator: “A strong manufacturing sector is critical to maintaining American competitiveness, especially in our response to the COVID-19 crisis. Reshoring American supply chains is critical to our economic recovery and national security.”

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.