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Equity, tech-based economic development and sustainability included in EDA’s updated investment priorities

April 29, 2021

As the new administration settles in, the Economic Development Administration (EDA) has updated its investment priorities — the guiding principles behind all of its competitive grants. Changes to the priorities are outlined below so that participants in local innovation economies are better able to align their proposed programs to these federal priorities.

The EDA’s new list of investment priorities includes seven points, with the inclusion of “Equity,” “Technology-Based Economic Development (TBED),” and “Environmentally-Sustainable Development” being three notable changes. The list of EDA’s investment priorities, including commentary on their differences from previous administrations’ priorities, is as follows:

  • Equity – absent in the Trump administration EDA’s list, and although the Obama administration included “Underserved Communities” as its sixth and final priority, the Biden administration’s EDA specifically places “Equity” at the top of its new list. It also identifies racial equity as a priority (identifying “women, Black, Latino, and Indigenous and Native American persons, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders as traditionally disadvantaged populations”) while maintaining  “economically disadvantaged communities” in the definition.
  • Recovery & Resilience – the Trump administration’s EDA topped its list with this category, and while much of it remains the same, the new list specifically names coal and power plant communities as areas requiring attention, reflecting the Biden administration’s goal for reducing the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels.
  • Workforce Development – this priority was also listed by the previous administration, but included more language focusing on the manufacturing sector and expanding apprenticeship programs than the current version.
  • Manufacturing – previous administrations worked manufacturing into other areas of their priority lists, but the new administration singles out the sector for its own priority. The language includes a focus on technology and capital upgrades and increasing productivity within the sector.
  • Technology-Based Economic Development – the new list includes TBED as a priority for the first time. The Trump administration made no mention of this category while the Obama administration included “Collaborative Regional Innovation” as a priority. TBED’s inclusion in the new list bodes well for regional entrepreneurial support organizations and members of local knowledge systems.
  • Environmentally-Sustainable Development – included in the Obama administration’s priorities, excluded by the Trump administration, this priority has returned with the Biden administration and focuses on developing products, processes, and infrastructure to address the climate crisis.  
  • Exports & Foreign Direct Investment – essentially nothing has changed in this category.

EDA also has dropped “Critical Infrastructure” and “Opportunity Zones” as categories in its new list of priorities. However, infrastructure planning and development is already a staple EDA activity, and “green infrastructure” is mentioned in the new “Environmentally-Sustainable Development” priority.

eda, economic development