WASHINGTON, March 9, 2012—The Obama Administration announced a $15 million multi-agency “Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator” challenge for local governments and other institutions to focus on economic growth in rural communities.

Nonprofits, higher education institutions, tribes and state and local governments can collaborate to apply for project funding. The project guidelines say businesses are not eligible to apply directly, but applicants can partner with the private sector on implementation. The Rural Jobs Accelerator Challenge is expected to give approximately 20 awards, according to the USDA announcement.

"The 'Rural Jobs Accelerator' will speed up job creation, new business start-ups and expansions by building regional economic systems in rural areas," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "USDA and our partners will work together to increase the power of local businesses, Tribes and officials to implement economic development strategies specially targeted to their regions."

This competition, designed by the Taskforce for the Advancement of Regional Innovation Clusters and the White House Rural Council, is being funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration (EDA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Delta Regional Authority (DRA), and the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). 

President Obama announced the challenge as part of his "We Can't Wait" campaign, which is designed to evade “congressional gridlock.” The goal of the challenge is to support rural partnerships by strengthening linkages to industry clusters, according to the USDA announcement. The project had 20 winners last year with both rural and urban public-private partnerships.  

"This Rural Jobs Accelerator challenge aligns federal efforts and resources to build on the historic investments that have been made in rural America over the past three years,” said U.S. Commerce Department Secretary John Bryson. “The contest will help determine where there is the greatest potential to maximize regional industrial strengths, helping businesses in rural areas create more jobs and support an economy that is built to last."

To be eligible for an award, projects must benefit rural communities, but the applicant is not required to be located in a rural area. The deadline for applications is May 9, 2012 and guidelines for submissions are accessible here.

In addition to the four funding partners the initiative is supported by nine other Federal agencies: Commerce's U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership; Denali Commission; U.S. Department of Education; U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration; U.S. Department of Energy; Environmental Protection Agency; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; and the Small Business Administration.


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