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December 13, 2021 | Tom Ballard

JUST IN: Only one proposal from TN makes the cut in EDA’s “Build Back Better Regional Challenge”

A proposal submitted by a coalition led by the University of Memphis (U of M) is the only applicant among nine from the Volunteer State to advance to the next competition round in the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) $1 billion “Build Back Better Regional Challenge.”

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo announced the 60 finalists yesterday, selected from 529 applications submitted from across the country. Each of the coalitions proposed projects that would develop or scale industry sectors, develop and train the workforce of today, and build resilient economies. Finalists will now compete in Phase 2 of the Challenge, which will award 20 to 30 regional coalitions up to $100 million to implement three to eight projects that support an industry sector. The deadline for Phase 2 applications is March 15, 2022.

The U of M’s proposal is titled “The Digital Delta: An Applied Technology Cluster Advancing Opportunity for the Memphis Region.” According to the summary accompanying EDA’s announcement, the seven-county, three-state coalition organized by the university proposes to build on the core industries that define its regional economy by developing physical infrastructure and human capital to support technology applications that accelerate innovation. The Digital Delta testbed, a 100-acre future-ready infrastructure development in Memphis, would create sustainable training and workforce solutions, and foster a research and development community. The referenced link also includes a second link to a PDF of the U of M proposal.

As noted in this November 4 article in, nine organizations in Tennessee submitted proposals under what is described as “the marquee of EDA’s American Rescue Plan programs that aims to boost economic pandemic recovery and rebuild American communities, including some that have been grappling with decades of disinvestment.” Besides the U of M, the other applicants from Tennessee and their concepts, in alphabetical order, were:

  • AgLaunch – “Sustainable, Equitable, and Regional Innovation and Entrepreneurship System for AgriFood” (SERIES-Ag);
  • Chattanooga Area Regional Council of Governments – “DRIVE 2.0: Building a Stronger Region through Electrified Mobility”;
  • East Tennessee Development District – “East Tennessee Transformation Network”;
  • FoundersForge in Johnson City – “Northeast Tennessee Entrepreneurial Initiative for Rural Economic and Workforce Development”;
  • TRV Stewardship Council, headquartered in Knoxville – “Crossing Boundaries: Sustaining Economic Growth through Outdoor Recreation in the Tennessee River Valley;”
  • The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga – “Southeast Quantum Coalition”;
  • Vanderbilt University – “Middle Tennessee Lifeworks Facilities”; and
  • Vision Heirs Inc. of Nashville (Project lead agency) – “TURH (The Ultimate Resource HUB).

Other notables among the 60 winners announced yesterday included:

  • Georgia Tech Research Corporation – “Georgia AI Manufacturing Pilot Facility and Technology Corridor”;
  • Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet – A new state-of-the-art agritech research and development center that will establish Eastern Kentucky as an agriculture technology hub;
  • North Carolina Biotechnology Center – “Accelerating Life Science Manufacturing to Create Economic Resilience and Promote Equity in Distressed North Carolina Communities”; and
  • mHUB, a partner of the University of Tennessee’s Spark Innovation Center in the “Midwest Regional Innovation Partnership” that is also comprised of the Clean Energy Trust and Centrepolis Accelerator at Lawrence Technological University – “2025 Clean Tech Economy Coalition: Projects and Partnerships to Accelerate Illinois Clean Energy Economy.”

A complete list of the winners can be found here.

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