The Obama Administration today announced a $15 million multi-agency Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator challenge  to spur job creation and economic growth in distressed rural communities. This competition, which is being funded by 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), was designed by the Taskforce for the Advancement of Regional Innovation Clusters and the White House Rural Council.
President Obama recently announced the challenge as part of the Administration's "We Can't Wait" efforts to strengthen the economy, create jobs and support business growth, particularly expanding opportunity for rural Americans and supporting new and innovative businesses nationwide.
The national effort will support rural partnerships by identifying and leveraging local assets and strengthening linkages to industry clusters. Strong industry clusters promote robust economic ecosystems and the development of a skilled workforce, both of which are critical to long-term regional success in rural areas. Last year's 20 challenge winners–both rural and urban public-private partnerships–generated millions in matching funds and their projects are expected to help create hundreds of new businesses and thousands of new jobs.
"We know that when rural America is growing, America as a whole is getting strong, and bringing everyone to the table creates more innovation and more jobs," said U.S. Commerce Department Secretary John Bryson. "This Rural Jobs Accelerator challenge aligns federal efforts and resources to build on the historic investments that have been made in rural America over the past three years. The contest will help determine where there is the greatest potential to maximize regional industrial strengths, helping businesses in rural areas create more jobs and support an economy that is built to last."
"The 'Rural Jobs Accelerator' will speed up job creation, new business start-ups and expansions by building regional economic systems in rural areas," said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "USDA and our partners will work together to increase the power of local businesses, Tribes and officials to implement economic development strategies specially targeted to their regions."
The Rural Jobs Accelerator Challenge is expected to give out approximately 20 awards, depending on the number of eligible applications. To be eligible for an award, projects must benefit rural communities, but the applicant is not required to be located in a rural area. Nonprofits, higher education institutions, tribes and state and local governments can collaborate to apply for funding. Although businesses are not eligible to apply directly, applicants can also partner with the private sector on implementation.
"A strong rural economy is key to a stronger America. This announcement to support $15 million in investments is exactly what Delta families need. These common sense steps promote job growth in economic clusters and continues the White House's commitment to growing and investing in the nation's rural communities," said Delta Regional Authority Federal Co-Chairman Christopher Masingill.
"The Appalachian Regional Commission partnering with USDA, EDA and other agencies creates opportunities for Appalachia communities to better leverage resources, take advantage of economic opportunities, and lay the ground work for further economic growth. We believe proposals like the Jobs Accelerator will help strengthen the region's entrepreneurial eco-system," said Appalachian Regional Commission Federal Co-Chair Earl F. Gohl.
The deadline for applications is May 9, 2012. In addition to the four funding partners the initiative is 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.