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Governor Tom Wolf today​ announced that the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) has named the Southwestern Pennsylvania New Economy Collaborative as one of 21 American Rescue Plan Build Back Better Regional Challenge winners. EDA is awarding approximately $62.7 million in grants to the Southwestern Pennsylvania New Economy Collaborative to strengthen the robotics and autonomy cluster in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

“I am grateful to President Joe Biden and his administration for making transformative investments here in Pennsylvania to help secure prosperity and opportunity for all. Already known as a hub for innovation and cutting-edge technology, this $62.7 million investment will further fuel Southwestern Pennsylvania as a global leader in robotics and artificial intelligence,” said Gov Wolf. “These dollars will help to grow family-sustaining jobs and spur economic opportunity across the region by supporting prospective employers and employees with investments in infrastructure, workforce training, and commercialization.

In March, Gov. Wolf wrote a letter in support of the Collaborative’s proposal, promising to partner with the SWPA coalition to ensure that this critical project is completed successfully.

With $62.7 million in funding from EDA, the Southwestern Pennsylvania New Economy Collaborative – a coalition of the region’s leading university, philanthropic, and private sector leaders – will supercharge SWPA’s globally recognized robotics and autonomy cluster and ensure that its economic benefits equitably reach rural and coal-impacted communities in the eleven-county region. The five projects funded as part of this award include support for the Expanded Pathways to New Economy Careers to grow the region’s existing robotics and AI-related workforce training portfolio and a SME Robotics Adoption project to support technology adoption by small- and medium-sized enterprises.

“The Build Back Better Regional Challenge provides bold investments in local economies to create good-paying jobs, catalyze emerging industries, and prepare our workforce for the future,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “The Southwestern Pennsylvania New Economy Collaborative coalition will strengthen a critical technology and innovation sector that will ensure U.S. global competitiveness for decades to come.”

The Southwestern Pennsylvania New Economy Collaborative is one of 21 winners – each a regional coalition of partnering entities – that will receive awards between $25 and $65 millionto implement an average of six projects that together will enable each region’s economic transformation and competitiveness.

The Build Back Better Regional Challenge (BBBRC) is an unprecedented competitive federal grant program that provides each regional coalition with significant investments to tackle a wide variety of projects – including entrepreneurial support, workforce development, infrastructure, and innovation– to drive inclusive economic growth. Each coalition’s collection of projects aims to develop and strengthen regional industry clusters – all while embracing economic equity, creating good-paying jobs, and enhancing U.S. competitiveness globally. Projects span 24 states and include $94 million to two primarily Tribal coalitions and over $200 million for projects serving communities impacted by the declining use of coal.

The 21 BBBRC awardees were chosen from 60 finalists which were each given about $500,000 in funding and received technical assistance to continue developing their cluster strategies. Those 60 finalists were chosen from a Phase 1 applicant pool of 529 applications, which exemplifies the tremendous demand for transformational economic development across the country. EDA will continue to support all 60 finalists with the creation of a Community of Practice – led by Research Triangle Institute – that will provide technical support, foster connectedness with peer regions and build capacity.

The Build Back Better Regional Challenge is one of EDA’s many programs aimed at building strong regional economies and supporting community-led economic development. EDA was allocated $3 billion in supplemental funding under the American Rescue Plan to assist communities nationwide in their efforts to build back better by accelerating economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and building local economies that will be resilient to future economic shocks. For more information about EDA’s American Rescue Plan programs, visit https://www.eda.gov/ARPA/.

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