The Obama Administration has announced the winners of the $37 million Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, a multi-agency competition launched in May to support the advancement of 20 high-growth, regional industry clusters. Investments from three federal agencies and technical assistance from 13 additional agencies will promote development in areas such as advanced manufacturing, information technology, aerospace and clean technology, in rural and urban regions in 21 states. Projects are driven by local communities that identify the economic strengths of their areas, with funding awarded to the best proposals.

These public-private partnerships are expected to create more than 4,800 jobs and 300 new businesses, as well as retain another 2,400 jobs and train approximately 4,000 workers for careers in high-growth industries, according to grantee estimates. Each of the 20 awards average about $1.8 million per project, and winning clusters will contribute another $13 million in total matching funds.

“The winning projects of the challenge are innovative and impressive. The grants demonstrate the Administration's commitment to accelerate the development of strong industry clusters that promote robust economic environments and help develop a skilled workforce,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “This is the type of investment the President is calling for as part of his continued commitment to job creation.”

Strong regional clusters grow from dynamic public-private partnerships that bring together business leaders, universities, non-profits, government officials and other strategic partners to help regions capitalize on shared strengths to enhance the local economy, create jobs, and compete globally.

“The Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge brings the public and private sectors together to build on America’s regional strengths and create local jobs in key industries of the future,” Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank said. “This initiative is a shining example of how the federal government is working collaboratively and leveraging existing resources to enhance local efforts to build public-private partnerships that support economic growth and job creation.”

Originally a $33 million initiative, the Challenge has grown to $37 million with increasing commitments from federal funding partners. The Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration is investing $19.5 million for technical skills training; the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration is investing $14.5 million in Economic Adjustment Assistance funds; and the Small Business Administration (SBA) is investing $3 million in technical assistance.  

“SBA has a long history of support for regional clusters, and the Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge is an important next step,” said SBA Administrator Karen Mills.  “I am pleased that SBA is contributing funding to bring underserved small businesses into regional clusters across the country.  By working with other federal agencies, we can link, leverage, and align our resources to give small businesses the tools they need to work together, grow and create jobs.”

The Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge is just one example of how the Obama Administration is collaborating to ensure a smarter use of federal resources to foster regional innovation in support of sustainable economic prosperity. Strong industry clusters – such as the Research Triangle in North Carolina or Silicon Valley in California – promote robust economic ecosystems and the development of a skilled workforce, both of which are critical to long-term regional success.