UofM chosen as finalist in EDA’s $1 Billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge
Dec. 15, 2021 — The University of Memphis was named by the Economic Development Administration (EDA) as a finalist in the $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge for its Digital Delta proposal. The UofM was the only finalist in the State of Tennessee.
The effort received substantial support from Congressman Steve Cohen, Governor Bill Lee and Mayor Jim Strickland.
The coalition will advance to Phase 2 and compete for up to $100 million in American Rescue Plan funding to develop industry in Memphis and Shelby County.
The challenge is assisting communities nationwide in their efforts to build back better by accelerating the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and building local economies that will be resilient to future economic shocks. The Build Back Better Regional Challenge is the largest economic development initiative from the U.S. Department of Commerce in decades.
“We are pleased that our proposal was selected from amongst several worthy ones from across the state,” said Dr. Jasbir Dhaliwal, UofM executive vice president for Research & Innovation. “As Western Tennessee’s primary comprehensive research university, it is our duty to lead on economic development initiatives to build a strong technological and innovation ecosystem in Memphis.”
Digital Delta strives to build the most connected urban-rural innovation district in the United States. The proposal includes seven counties, including Shelby, Fayette, Haywood, Lauderdale and Tipton in Tennessee; DeSoto in Mississippi; and Crittenden in Arkansas to build sustainable economic development.
The UofM is part of a regional coalition of stakeholders from government, business, nonprofits and academia including the Greater Memphis Chamber, Epicenter, Start Co. and the Memphis Area Association of Governments that was awarded $500,000.
Phase 1 of the Build Back Better Regional Challenge invited coalitions to apply for funding to implement a collection of three to eight distinct but related projects in their region. Projects need to be in coordination with industry and community partners and aligned around a holistic vision to build and scale a strategic industry sector.
EDA received 529 applications from regions in all 50 states and five territories, and the 60 finalists represent regions that formed extraordinary coalitions, demonstrated regional needs and presented bold proposals to grow their target industry clusters. Ranging from rural communities and coastal towns to major metros, the finalists make up a diverse cross-section of the United States.
In Phase 2, finalists will compete for significant implementation assistance. EDA will award 20-30 coalitions each up to $100 million. These awards will assist communities in executing ambitious plans to supercharge their regional economies across a variety of strategic growth sectors. The deadline for Phase 2 applications is March 15, 2022.
This collaborative community initiative is being led by Dr. Cody Behles of the Division of Research & Innovation. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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About the American Rescue Plan Programs
The Build Back Better Regional Challenge is one of many EDA programs aimed at building strong regional economies and supporting community-led economic development. Under the American Rescue Plan, EDA was allocated $3 billion in supplemental funding to assist communities nationwide in their efforts to build back better by accelerating the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and building local economies that will be resilient to future economic shocks.
American Rescue Plan funding enables EDA to provide larger, more transformational investments across the nation while utilizing its greatest strengths, including flexible funding to support community-led economic development. With an emphasis on equity, EDA investments made under the American Rescue Plan will directly benefit previously underserved communities impacted by COVID-19. For more information about EDA’s American Rescue Plan programs, visit eda.gov/ARPA.
About the U.S. Economic Development Administration
The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation’s regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA invests in communities and supports regional collaboration in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth. For more information about EDA, visit eda.gov.