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American Rescue Plan Build Back Better Regional Challenge – Frequently Asked Questions

View the Pre-Award Frequently Asked Questions: Phase 2 | Phase 1

COMPETITION 101

What is the Build Back Better Regional Challenge?

The Build Back Better Regional Challenge (BBBRC) is a national competition through which EDA will provide transformational investments to regions across the country to grow new regional industry clusters or scale existing ones. BBBRC provides transformational investments to develop and strengthen regional industry clusters across the country, all while embracing equitable economic growth, creating good-paying jobs, and enhancing U.S. global competitiveness. See the Build Back Better Regional Challenge site for more information.

What is a “cluster” and/or a “coalition”? What about “coalition lead”, “project”, and “RECO”?

Cluster: Several entities working together to grow a regional economy through the growth of an existing and/or creation of a new regional industry or industries, concentrated in a bounded geography relative to the needs and conditions of the region that ensures maximum collaboration and impact

Coalition: A group of regional entities that came together to apply to the Build Back Better Regional Challenge specifically, united by shared goals and coordinated governance

Coalition lead: A designated member of the regional coalition to lead coordination among the projects, ensure connectivity with industry and community, and accelerate collaboration and support for the cluster

RECO: Short for Regional Economic Competitiveness Officer, RECOs serve as the critical “CEO” role for BBBRC coalitions – while responsibilities can vary depending on each coalition’s leadership needs, RECOs are the cornerstone of each regional industry cluster

Project: Per the NOFO, each coalition was asked to submit 3-8 distinct but related projects aligned around a holistic vision. Examples of projects include governance and planning, workforce development and training programs, digital and/or physical infrastructure, and revolving loan funds

What is the Build Back Better Regional Challenge doing differently from other federal funding programs, both at EDA and beyond?

The BBBRC is making once-in-a-generation investments in regional economies. The BBBRC is a unique competitive federal grant program because it provides each awardees with unprecedented funding for between 3 and 8 complementary projects – together, these projects and the entities they bring to the table will comprise the region’s long-term strategy for economic transformation. More importantly, the competition empowered each coalition to articulate its own vision for the region, which was developed with local public, private, and social sector partners at the table. See below for more detail on how BBBRC is differentiated from other related programs.

How does this program connect to EDA’s mission as the only federal government agency focused exclusively on economic development?

The Build Back Better Regional Challenge is the largest, nationally run regional economic development competition in decades. The program accelerates regional economic development by enabling regions to achieve decades of investment in just five years, while also addressing equity and building resiliency to thrive in a global economy. BBBRC builds on EDA’s experience in funding a broad range of economic development projects and running national competitions, combining the two to do so at scale.

How is this competition different from other national federal challenges like the NSF Regional Engines, DOE Hydrogen Hubs, or DOT SMART Challenge?

While the other upcoming programs share similar competition-based designs, BBBRC is focused exclusively on economic development and provides a broader set of parameters around what types of regional industry clusters might be funded (e.g., no specific industries of focus). This was driven by the bold belief that that with the right resources, all regions can successfully create bottom-up economic growth strategies to compete in the global economy. That said, the EDA team is hopeful that many BBBRC applicants will draw from their BBBRC work and strategies to apply to other federal funding opportunities.

ABOUT THE AWARDEES

For detailed information about the awardees please reference the following links.

The awardees were selected from a pool of 60 finalists, which EDA will continue to work with regardless of the final competition funding outcome. FAQs on all finalists can be found in the next two sections of this page.

What industries are represented in the Phase 2 awardees?

BBBRC is investing in emerging industries across the economy including

  • 5 biotechnology and health clusters
  • 4 advanced mobility hubs, from autonomous and electric vehicles to advanced aerospace manufacturing
  • 4 clusters reinventing their natural resource and agricultural industries
  • 4 communities developing next-generation manufacturing clusters
  • 3 coalitions driving key segments of the clean energy economy
  • 1 multi-state tribal coalition growing an indigenous finance industry

Which regions will be receiving funding?

The 21 coalitions will serve Americans in the following 24 states: Alaska, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

See below for a map of the awardees:

Build Back Better Regional Challenge map of awardees

Click image for larger version

What were the award sizes?

Awards range from $25M to $65M per coalition. Each award is a reflection of the specific coalition’s budget, projects and what EDA ultimately felt was necessary for regional success.

As part of the competition, coalitions were asked to provide matching funds to complete their project budgets – awardees provided over $300 million in match (greater than 20 percent of the total project budgets).

Why are the per cluster grant amounts “approximate”?

Given the complexity of the clusters, with multiple interrelated individual projects, some small budget adjustments continue to be made. Final grant documentation will be provided to the grantees with approved budgets by the end of September. At this point there is a high degree of confidence in the approximate amounts though the exact amounts may vary some small amount until the final budgets are approved.

How does this program prioritize equity?

The BBBRC prioritized building more inclusive regional economies by making it a key priority in the program's overall design and evaluation criteria. As a result, EDA Phase 2 funding will serve Americans in BBBRC serves 106 counties that are home to largely underserved populations, 236 counties that are fully rural, and 136 persistent poverty counties.

EDA funding will also directly support and empower Tribal and Coal-impacted communities. Across the awardees, there are 121 counties that include tribal areas, with more than $87 million in funding going towards regional partnerships led by and for tribal communities. Similarly, over $150 million will be invested in coal communities, including 3 coalitions primarily serving impacted regions.

How are employers and other private sector entities involved in the awardees?

Private sector entities cannot be EDA grantees but were critical to the competition through their letters of support and overall partnership within coalitions. Over 450 employer letters of support were provided across the winning coalitions – in which private sector players pledged job commitments, advisory expertise, in-kind contributions (e.g., equipment use), networks and introductions, pilot programs, and other supports.

How do these awardees relate to EDA’s Coal Communities Commitment?

EDA’s Coal Communities Commitment dedicated $100 million of the $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge funds to directly support coal communities as they recover from the pandemic and to help them create new jobs and opportunities. As stated above, the final amount of funding awarded to BBBRC coal communities totaled to over $150 million. This includes 3 coalitions that are specifically focused on coal communities and various individual projects from additional coalitions. More information on the American Rescue Plan Coal Communities Commitment can be found here.

COMPETITION SELECTION PROCESS

How were the awardees selected?

EDA conducted a comprehensive, national-level review as described in the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO). All 60 finalist applications were reviewed by a national Investment Review Committee (IRC) and evaluated against the Evaluation Criteria provided in the NOFO. The IRC’s recommendations were subject to selection factors that ensured a balanced portfolio.

How were coalitions engaged between Phase 1 (60 finalists) and Phase 2 announcement (21 awardees)?

Following the announcement of the 60 finalists in December 2021, EDA facilitated a three-month “Good to Great” process in which coalitions received cohort-based technical assistance to strengthen their clusters and proposals leading up to Phase 2 submission. EDA invested funding to stand up a “Technical Assistance Coalition”, which consisted of the National League of Cities, America Achieves, Federation of American Scientists, and the Drexel Nowak Finance Lab. finalists were provided a mix of 1:1 coaching and group learning sessions over this period.

Over the summer, finalists also had additional opportunities to engage with other funders. In April, EDA hosted a virtual showcase in which finalists were invited to present their proposals to federal agencies and philanthropies. In June, EDA hosted a conference in Washington, DC where coalition leadership, the Technical Assistance coalition, and other funders convened.

LOOKING AHEAD

How will EDA support the success of the awardees?

EDA will provide technical assistance to each awarded coalition to ensure it successfully grows its regional industry cluster. Through a combination of EDA staff, a Community of Practice (CoP) partner (see question below for more detail), and additional experts across government, the economic development field, and other sectors, EDA is committed to ensuring the BBBRC Phase 2 awardees are set up for success.

EDA will also support the success of Build Back Better Regional Challenge awardees by working with them to monitor outcomes across the portfolio. Over the summer, EDA invested approximately $1.3 million in awards to the Purdue University Center for Regional Development and Brookings Metro to lead research and evaluation efforts on the BBBRC portfolio such that grantees and EDA can continue to amplify their success stories and measure success.

How will EDA continue to engage with finalists that were not selected for Phase 2 funding?

All BBBRC finalists represent high quality clusters and individual projects. The 60 coalitions were chosen from a pool of 529 initial applicants from across the nation. Each finalist coalition received $500,000 in funding from EDA to begin executing on their cluster’s concept proposals and participated in 6 months of curated technical assistance to strengthen their approach. EDA is committed to supporting the success of each of the 60 finalists.

Looking forward, EDA has invested $4 million in a grant to Research Triangle Institute (RTI) International to coordinate and lead a Community of Practice (CoP) dedicated to long-term support for the Build Back Better Regional Challenge’s 60 finalist coalitions. RTI International, in partnership with sub-awardee the State Science & Technology Institute (SSTI), will organize quarterly workshops; policy briefs describing emerging best practices gleaned from the implementation of coalition projects; cross-coalition site visits and learning exchanges; and the production of asynchronous communication vehicles to connect coalition stakeholders, including newsletters, data dashboards, and webinars.

I’m part of a finalist coalition, and our application wasn’t selected. How can I learn about ways to increase the competitiveness of my coalition for future grant programs?

EDA received applications requesting more than $4.4 billion in funding for the $1 billion program, resulting in many competitive proposals. In September, EDA will offer all non-selected coalitions opportunities to discuss the competition's selection process, feedback, and future opportunities to engage.

How can I get involved in one of the 60 BBBRC coalitions?

EDA encourages employers, institutions of higher education, unions, local government, philanthropies, and other key stakeholders to join these coalitions. Contact information for each of the coalitions will be made public shortly. In the meantime, please feel free to reach out to BuildBackBetter@EDA.gov to discuss involvement with the EDA team.

Now that this program is finished, what other EDA funding is available?

Other funding opportunities available through the Economic Development Administration can be found here.

OTHER

What should I do if I have additional questions not answered in this FAQ? How do I get in touch with EDA?

Please send all inquiries about the American Rescue Plan Build Back Better Regional Challenge to BuildBackBetter@EDA.gov.

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