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Obama Administration Announces $9 Million Investment in Rural Communities to Foster Job Creation and Innovation

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

News Media Contact:

U.S. Commerce Department, Office of Public Affairs
U.S. Department of Agriculture< Office of Public Affairs

Winners of the Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge will strengthen regional industry clusters and rural economies across 12 states

The Obama administration today announced the winners of the multi-agency Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge to spur job creation and economic growth in rural regions across the country.

Economic development partnerships and initiatives in Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia will receive awards ranging from nearly $200,000 to over $1 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) and the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). The winning projects will promote job creation, accelerate innovation and provide assistance to entrepreneurs and businesses in a wide range of industrial sectors, including advanced manufacturing, agribusiness, energy and natural resources, technology and tourism.

“This $9 million investment builds on the Obama administration’s commitment to supporting business growth, expanding opportunities and creating jobs throughout our nation’s rural regions,” said Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank. “These thirteen partnerships and innovation clusters will provide entrepreneurs and businesses with research and development support to foster innovation, and other resources to gain access to capital, build supply chains, and hire and train workers so they can build things here, sell them everywhere and create good paying American jobs.”

“The announcement of this round of winners marks another step in the Obama administration’s commitment to help create jobs and economic opportunities across the country,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The Jobs and Innovation Accelerator challenge winners are able to assist in a wide-range of areas include housing, community facilities, and economic and community development leading to job creation, expanded markets, and economic growth.”

The Rural Jobs Accelerator Challenge is a national initiative to support rural partnerships that are critical components of the Obama administration’s efforts to support small businesses. By leveraging local assets, the selected industry clusters and partnerships can do even more to help entrepreneurs and small businesses foster innovation, increase competitiveness and employ highly skilled workers, all of which are critical to long-term economic growth in their regions.

Last year’s 20 challenge winners generated millions in matching funds and their projects are expected to help create hundreds of new businesses and thousands of new jobs.

“The White House Rural Council recognizes the potential for economic growth and job creation in rural America. It brought the four agencies together to provide this joint funding opportunity that supports the work of rural leaders who are growing their economies by leveraging local assets, encouraging entrepreneurship, and working collaboratively throughout their regions. The result will be the strengthening of a number of Appalachian industry clusters—such as local food systems, automotive manufacturing, and cultural tourism—that will generate the jobs of tomorrow and an economy that will last,” said Appalachian Regional Commission Federal Co-Chair Earl F. Gohl.

“Promoting job growth in economic clusters continues President Obama’s commitment to growing and investing in the nation's rural communities,” said Delta Regional Authority Federal Co-Chairman Christopher Masingill. “Congratulations to the winners of the Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge who will help create good jobs in rural America and build a stronger economy across the Delta and throughout the country.”

This competition, which is being funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Appalachian Regional Commission, and Delta Regional Authority, was designed by the Taskforce for the Advancement of Regional Innovation Clusters and the White House Rural Council. The initiative is also supported by nine other Federal agencies: Commerce’s U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership; Denali Commission; U.S. Department of Education; U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration; U.S. Department of Energy; Environmental Protection Agency; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; and the Small Business Administration.

This year’s winners of the Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator challenge are:

  • Alaska: Bristol Bay Jobs Accelerator Project, $405,023
  • Connecticut: New England Food Hub Cluster Initiative, $568,150  
  • Illinois: Henry-Rural Rock Island-Mercer County Economic Development Consortium, $193,500
  • Kansas: Advanced Manufacturing Institute at Kansas State University, $715,000
  • Louisiana-Arkansas: I-20 Corridor Regional Accelerator, $964,134 
  • Mississippi: Mississippi State University, $1,065,000 
  • New Hampshire: Northern Tier Farm and Forest Jobs Accelerator, $708,750
  • North Carolina: WNC AgriVentures—Cultivating Jobs and Innovation Project, $815,000
  • North Carolina: Northern Carolina Eastern Region Aerospace and Automotive Cluster Project, $715,000
  • South Carolina: Southern Carolina Alliance Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, $650,000
  • Virginia: Appalachian Spring – Using Asset-Based and Creative Economy Methods to Catalyze Rural Job Acceleration, $815,000 
  • West Virginia: Southern West Virginia Rural Jobs Accelerator Partnership, $717,985 
  • West Virginia: Value Chain Cluster Initiative, $815,000

More information on the winners is available here.