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Obama Administration Announces $9 Million Investment in Rural Communities through Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge

August 2012


WASHINGTON, August 1, 2012—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 Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), and the Delta Regional Authority (DRA). The 13 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.

Five of the 13 winning projects are located in Appalachia. They include:

  • Accelerating Jobs and Innovation through Community and Economic Development in Rural Mississippi, a project of Mississippi State University, Starkville, Mississippi: $1,065,000
  • WNC AgriVentures—Cultivating Jobs and Innovation Project, a partnership of Western North Carolina Regional Economic Development Non-Profit Corporation (AdvantageWest Economic Development Group), Fletcher, North Carolina, and Land-of-Sky Regional Council, Asheville, North Carolina: $815,000
  • Appalachian Spring: Using Asset-Based and Creative Economy Methods to Catalyze Rural Job Acceleration, a project of Round the Mountain: Southwest Virginia's Artisan Network, Abingdon, Virginia: $815,000
  • Southern West Virginia Rural Jobs Accelerator Partnership, a project of Marshall University Research Corporation, Huntington, West Virginia: $717,985
  • West Virginia Value Chain Cluster Initiative, a project of the Natural Capital Investment Fund, Shepherdstown, West Virginia: $815,000

"This is a great day for rural America and for the Appalachian Region," said ARC Federal Co-Chair Earl F. Gohl. "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, advanced manufacturing, and cultural tourism—that will generate the jobs of tomorrow and an economy that will last."

"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 13 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 well-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 Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. "The Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge winners are able to assist in a wide range of areas, including housing, community facilities, and economic and community development, leading to job creation, expanded markets, and economic growth."

The Rural Jobs and Innovation 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.

Based on grantee estimates, the 13 winning projects will create or retain a total of 2,990 jobs in the short term, and leverage $35.5 million in private investment. In the long term, grantees estimate, a total of 6,460 jobs will be created or retained, and $69.6 million in private investment will be leveraged.

Funded by EDA, the USDA, ARC, and the DRA, the competition 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; the Denali Commission; the U.S. Department of Education; the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration; the U.S. Department of Energy; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; and the U.S. Small Business Administration.