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Feds launch $26M ‘challenge’ to boost manufacturing clusters

Manufacturing operations, such as Hewlett-Packard in Aguadilla, account for 42 percent of the island's economic activity. Julio Cartagena, product engineering manager for ink production, demostrates one of the procedures. (Credit: © Mauricio Pascual)

The President Barack Obama administration announced Tuesday the start of the third round of the $26 million multi-agency “Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge” to foster innovation-fueled job creation through public-private partnerships.

The coordinated investments involving 14 federal government agencies will work together with private capital to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem and promote cluster-based development across the U.S. and its territories.

Regional clusters and academic-private partnerships in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have until July 9 to submit applications, “and help increase their chances of job creation through innovation and technology commercialization,” the U.S. Small Business Administration, one of the participating agencies, said in a release issued Tuesday.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration and National Institute of Standards and Technology; the U.S. Department of Energy; the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration; the SBA; and the National Science Foundation are funding the competition.

In addition to the six funding partners, the initiative is supported by eight other Federal agencies: U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Education, Housing and Urban Development; Environmental Protection Agency; Denali Commission; and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, Minority Business Development Administration, and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

“This $26 million ‘Accelerator Challenge’ is yet another example of the Obama administration’s commitment to supporting American manufacturers in building things here and selling them everywhere,” said U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson. “We are so pleased to join with our federal agency partners to further strengthen the American manufacturing sector, which creates high quality, good paying jobs.

“Commerce’s Economic Development Administration has a strong record of investing in regional innovation clusters that foster the job creation and business development crucial to an economy that is built to last,” Bryson said. “This ‘Challenge’ further bolsters our efforts and builds on the momentum we have seen in the manufacturing sector in recent months, including the 489,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs that have been added since January 2010.”

Manufacturing ‘critical’ to economy
Advanced manufacturing is critical to the health of the national economy and provides essential goods and equipment directly to consumers as well as to a wide range of industries, including the energy production, agriculture, medical and computing industries, and the security and intelligence sectors. In Puerto Rico, the manufacturing sector accounts for 42 percent of the annual economic activity.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis

“The ‘Accelerator Challenge’ is one way the federal government is helping to support the manufacturing industry, a vital source of middle-class jobs,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “The innovative products developed as a result of this federal grant program will help our economy maintain its global competitive advantage, while also creating jobs at home.”

Stateside, manufacturing activity accounts for 70 percent of private-sector R&D and 60 percent of U.S. exports–including a record $1.2 trillion in goods exported in 2011. Over the past 25 months, manufacturers have created nearly 500,000 jobs.

The “Jobs Accelerator Challenge” is designed to assist the development and implementation of regionally driven economic development strategies that will support advanced manufacturing and cluster development. The goal is to create jobs, grow the economy, and enhance the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers in the global marketplace.

Approximately 12 projects are expected to be chosen through a competitive inter-agency grant process.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 29 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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