(Reposted from: Economic Development Administration’s “Commerce News”)

WASHINGTON – Today, President Biden will announce the Alaska Mariculture Cluster as one of 21 winners of the $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge, the most impactful regional economic development competition in decades. Funded by President Biden’s American Rescue Plan and administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), the Regional Challenge is awarding approximately $49 million in grants to the Alaska Mariculture Cluster, led by the Southeast Conference, to catalyze a sustainable mariculture industry in Alaska.

With $49 million in funding from EDA, the Alaska Mariculture Cluster will support the region’s growing mariculture industry and ensure that it provides shellfish and seaweed for the long-term benefit of Alaska’s economy, environment, and communities. Projects include the creation of a Revolving Loan Fund to provide funding for local businesses to grow, development of mariculture-focused workforce training programs, and research support to grow innovative seaweed and shellfish products. The coalition will operate in partnership with Sealaska, an Alaska Native Corporation owned by more than 23,000 Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian shareholders, ensuring the cluster’s approach centers the priorities of tribal, rural, and underserved communities.

“President Biden recognizes the immense potential of the nation’s ocean and blue economy and Alaska’s important role in its success. For many Alaska natives, mariculture is not just an industry, but a way of life.” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “This EDA investment will create new opportunities across Alaska that are directly aligned with the needs of tribal and rural communities and can provide long-term benefit to the state’s economy and environment.”

“The Economic Development Administration plays an important role in supporting community-led economic development strategies designed to boost economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo. “This EDA investment will provide the tools Alaska needs to develop a strong and resilient mariculture sector, supporting the nation’s growth of its blue economy.”

The Southeast Conference Alaska Mariculture Cluster is one of 21 winners – each a regional coalition of partnering entities – that will receive awards between $25 million and $65 million to implement an average of six integrative projects that 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 $87 million to two primarily Tribal coalitions and over $150 million for projects serving communities impacted by the declining use of coal.

The 21 BBBRC awardees were chosen from 60 EDA-designated finalists that each received approximately $500,000 in funding and technical assistance to continue developing their cluster strategies. The funding for each coalition is approximate, with awards to be signed later in September. Those 60 finalists were chosen from a Phase 1 applicant pool of 529 applications, which exemplifies the tremendous demand for transformational economic development approaches. EDA will continue to support all 60 finalists with the creation of a Community of Practice 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. As a part of this funding, EDA allocated $300 million through a Coal Communities Commitment to support coal communities in pandemic recovery and help them create new jobs and opportunities, including through the creation or expansion of a new industry sector. Specifically, EDA has dedicated $100 million of its Build Back Better Regional Challengefunds and $200 million of its Economic Adjustment Assistance funds to directly support coal communities. Grantees for EDA’s full suite of American Rescue Plan programs will be awarded on a rolling basis through September 30, 2022. For more information, visit https://www.eda.gov/ARPA/.

About the U.S. Economic Development Administration (www.eda.gov)
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.

Contact:         Toby Nelson