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Workforce, industry clusters listed as top priorities under EDA’s Statewide Planning Grants

November 18, 2021
By: Colin Edwards

As the Economic Development Administration (EDA) continues to award its $3 billion allotment of pandemic relief funding made available by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), many states are taking aim at several specific areas of economic concern — while others are maintaining a broad perspective. Under the Statewide Planning, Research & Networks program (“planning grants”), EDA provides $1 million grants to states to use in forming coordinated state-wide plans for economic development as well as developing the data, tools, and capacity to evaluate and scale evidence-based economic development efforts. SSTI’s analysis of the funded projects’ brief descriptions shows that states were split between those focusing on broadly-scoped planning projects and those focusing on a few specific areas of interest.

According to the EDA’s press releases from October 21 and November 4, 54 of the 59 states and territories that were invited to submit planning grant applications have each been awarded $1 million to pursue their projects. Several areas of interest were called out in states’ brief project descriptions while other’s referenced the broad objective of developing a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). Specifically, the categories used in this analysis are drawn from the EDA’s official Notice of Funding Opportunity, and include entrepreneurship, innovation, manufacturing & supply chain, workforce, broadband, industry clusters, CEDS only, and other (includes additional research activities, hiring consultants and program staff, business attraction, climate resiliency, and others).

Just over half of the states targeted a single topic in their brief project descriptions — inclusive of the “CEDS only” and “other” categories — although the number of states that mentioned several specific categories of focus was not far behind. Across all state projects, the topics of industry clusters and workforce were cited by the most states (18 states each), followed by developing CEDS (cited by 12 states), broadband (11 states), innovation (11 states), entrepreneurship (nine states), manufacturing & supply chain (eight states), and other activities (five states).

Of the states that expressed intent to focus on multiple specific topics, Guam and Illinois called out the greatest number of topics. Most states that plan to tackle multiple priorities listed two or three topics in their brief project descriptions. Common combinations of topics include workforce and broadband as in Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Michigan; industry clusters and workforce as in Georgia, Puerto Rico, and Minnesota; and innovation and industry clusters as in Rhode Island and Texas.

Of the states with a narrow focus, industry clusters was the sole focus area in the most number of states (Arkansas, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Washington); followed by the “other” category (Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico); broadband (Alabama, Florida, Idaho); workforce (Iowa, North Dakota, Wyoming); innovation (California). Entrepreneurship was not listed as the sole focus area in any of the state descriptions.

eda, coronavirus, funding, states