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GYEDC Part of Collaboration Awarded Manufacturing Grant

October 08, 2013 10:36 PM

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BY JOYCE LOBECK @YSJoyceLobeck

The Yuma-area’s efforts to create more jobs is getting help through a half-million-dollar federal grant awarded to a regional collaboration to develop a strategic plan for manufacturing in Southern Arizona and New Mexico.

The collaboration, Innovation Frontier Southwest, has been awarded a $457,000 grant by the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration. It is part of the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership, an initiative to accelerate the resurgence of manufacturing in the United States and create jobs across the nation.

The grant is designed as a series of targeted studies that will allow the border region to determine current assets and deficits in infrastructure, workforce, research and policy.

Innovation Frontier Southwest is a collaboration of Tech Parks Arizona, the University of Arizona’s technology-parks arm; Pima County; the Arizona Commerce Authority; the city of Tucson; the Greater Yuma Economic Development Corp.; the New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership; New Mexico State University Engineering/New Mexico Resource Network; and Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities Inc.

Although most of the grant activity will be in Tucson, GYEDC will help with the initial development of the data and “hopefully reap the benefits of the assets,” said Julie Engel, president and chief executive officer of the Yuma organization.

It complements a $140,000 grant that Yuma County and GYEDC received through the same program. That grant, announced in late September, will fund a study to identify barriers to attracting manufacturers to the Yuma area, Engel said.

Both grants are part of the first round of a brand new program to boost manufacturing in the U.S. This first phase provided 44 planning grants and investments totaling $7 million.

The grants will help communities undertake the strategic planning necessary to compete for the IMCP Challenge being launched this fall and awarded in the spring.

In the 2014 Challenge competition, the administration will designate standout “manufacturing communities” and give them an advantage in securing grants and investments through programs offered by 10 federal departments and agencies across the government. Top “manufacturing communities” may receive large IMCP Challenge grants and investments to finance – in partnership with industry and localities – substantial economic development investments such as workforce training, business parks or incubators, and infrastructure.

“It will build a foundation,” Engel said of both grants. “It will help us better position ourselves. If we’re funded at this level, we’ll be eligible for a much larger grant to develop infrastructure and target industries.”