Local Coalition Seeks Build Back Better Funds

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — A coalition led by Eastgate Regional Council of Governments is seeking funds from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration to implement initiatives in the region.

EDA is awarding $1 billion for regional investment through the American Rescue Plan Build Back Better Regional Challenge, according to Eastgate. The program is designed to assist communities by accelerating the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and building local economies that will be resilient to future economic shocks.

Eastgate’s proposal was among 529 applications received by EDA ahead of the Oct. 19 deadline for Phase 1 grants for technical assistance. The agency was among 16 Ohio-based lead applicants for funds.

“From rural communities to university towns, major metros, and everything in between, our applicants reflect the local economies that propel our nation forward,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo in a prepared statement. “The Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and Build Back Better Act will provide the resources to continue to do this much needed work so that communities can recover, Americans can get back to work, and we can enhance U.S. competitiveness on the global stage.” 

In Phase 1, 50- to 60 regional coalitions will be awarded $500,000 in technical assistance funds to develop three- to eight projects to grow a regional growth cluster. In Phase 2, EDA will award 20- to 30 regional coalitions grants between $25 million and $75 million to implement those projects.

If Eastgate’s Phase 1 proposal is selected, the funds would be used to engage with technical experts in previously identified industry clusters to develop a more detailed implementation strategy and funding plan, said Jim Kinnick, Eastgate executive director.

“Eastgate’s Build Back Better proposal leverages a number of previous analyses and studies which have affirmed that the region’s economic development future is dependent upon four key industry clusters: advanced manufacturing, electric vehicles and battery storage, smart logistics and information technology,” Kinnick said.

Together with its regional economic development partners, Eastgate has proposed transformational initiatives that will enable each of the industry clusters to flourish. They include:

  • A national energy storage workforce training and innovation center.
  • Digital equity and job skills centers.
  • Increased business attraction, retention and marketing resources.
  • Expanded innovation and entrepreneurial services.
  • Physical Infrastructure required to compete for new businesses, including “Lake to River” high speed broadband fiber line.

The local coalition includes Youngstown State University, Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, Youngstown Business incubator, America Makes, Brite Energy Innovators and Western Reserve Port Authority.

EDA anticipates awarding technical assistance grants by Dec. 8. Applicants selected to apply for Phase 2 would have until March 15 to make their application, with award announcements anticipated no later than September 2022.

If the local application advances to Phase 2, the coalition would seek between $50 million and $75 million, Kinnick said.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.