A group of economic development agencies in northeast Ohio, including four with ties to the Mahoning Valley, are finalists for some $1 billion in economic development grants tied to the coronavirus relief package of the Biden administration.
Led by MAGNET (Manufacturing Advocacy Growth Network), the Cleveland-based group that spans 18 northeast Ohio counties, the $75 million proposal focuses on smart manufacturing and advanced materials.
The finalists – mostly coalitions made up of government, academic and business partnerships – will each receive $500,000 to help plan the next round, with applications due in March. The deadline for choosing the winners is September.
MAGNET’s proposal is divided into eight build and non-build program components, one of which would be led by BRITE Energy Innovators which, located in downtown Warren, is the state’s only energy technology incubator. .
Other members of the Valley coalition include America Makes, the national accelerator for additive manufacturing and 3D printing in Youngstown; Youngstown State University; Youngstown Business Incubator; and Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber.
BRITE, according to the request, would establish a space for research and development and commercialization to support companies in the field of batteries and energy storage, in particular those in the automotive sector.
The project would cost around $8 million.
Rick Stockburger, Chairman and CEO of BRITE, said there is huge opportunity to build a strong regional ecosystem in the sector. So far, efforts have focused on developing the proposal. If it gets funding, that could mean upgrading BRITE’s facilities, constructing new buildings, or repurposing an existing building for the new center.
“Key is the relationship with Ultium Cells and Lordstown Motors as we move forward and build something that will bring exponential return to the community,” Stockburger said in the form of investments in energy companies and job creation.
Other construction-related components would be $5 million to deploy a network of smart sensors at ports and Lake Erie waterways to improve the movement of goods and supply chain backlogs; $7 million to improve micro-grids that serve major industrial districts; and $15 million to create a space to develop and test new materials used in advanced manufacturing.
Non-building components of the plan include $5 million to set up technical R&D and commercialization assistance for manufacturers developing remote health devices in the 18-county region; $15 million to create R&D and commercialization to help in the aerospace field around NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland; $10 million to increase supplier diversity and minority business growth; and $10 million to launch an enterprise technical program to support apprenticeship and manufacturing gain programs that engage underrepresented groups.
“These projects provide an opportunity to address the structural inequalities that produce extreme conditions of distress in our communities,” indicates the funding request.
It is estimated that construction projects would be completed within 30 months of award and non-construction projects within two years, the application states.
The project is one of 60 finalists announced on Monday. The funding aims to improve skills training and regional industry partnerships.
There were 529 scholarship applicants. This means that approximately 11% of submissions have made it to the next round, which will ultimately choose 20-30 regional coalitions for up to $100 million in grants that could shape manufacturing, clean energy and science centers of life across the country. Twelve of the finalists came from places related to the coal industry.
“This program will bring communities back to regions across America,” said Alejandra Castillo, assistant secretary of commerce for economic development. She said the program was designed to bring together different local partners “to leverage their assets.”
The pairing has letters of support for over $25 million, representing over 33% of the project’s estimated costs. Sources include cash, local, state, and philanthropic grants, corporate donations, concurrent projects, and capital and public funding initiatives, as requested.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.