May 4, 2022

Supporting Technology-Based Economic Development is Key to EDA’s Mission

craig buerstatte

For more than 55 years, EDA has practiced a place-based, bottom-up approach to economic development by investing in three critical elements: infrastructure, workforce, and business support that regional economies need to build globally competitive, future-focused industries.

As technology changes every aspect of the global economy, each community must pivot their strategies in ways that best serve them. EDA’s approach to support these locally driven strategies remains paramount. In fact, EDA’s investment priorities include technology-based economic development — meaning we encourage projects that foster entrepreneurship and startups, commercialization of new technologies, and workforce development for high-skilled, good-paying jobs of the future.

Modern infrastructure, including transportation hubs and research facilities, is an important ingredient for tech-based economic development. Beyond the traditional definition of infrastructure, the Biden Administration understands that broadband connectivity is a critical need for communities to build businesses of the future and is making strategic investments to reflect that, including $65 billion in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to help deliver affordable, reliable, high-speed internet to every American. This week the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) awarded nearly $77 million to expand internet access for dozens of tribes

With the fundamental infrastructure in place, everyone in a community should also have access to training opportunities and career paths to good-paying jobs in these tech-based fields. EDA has long supported industry-driven job training by helping organizations modernize workforce training facilities, secure critical equipment, and execute training programs to build skills needed to participate in new, growth-oriented industries. Just last year, EDA provided $3.6 million to the Workroom Program Alliance and the Cleveland Municipal School District to renovate an adult technical training facility, adding much-needed resources to train workers for quality manufacturing sector jobs. This project is expected to create or retain nearly 1,000 jobs across the community.

Once a region has both the infrastructure and talent to grow technology-based local economies, it is only natural to invest in building and scaling new technology-driven ventures, furthering the region’s resilience and global economic competitiveness. This is the spirit of EDA’s flagship innovation and entrepreneurship grant program, the Build to Scale program, which builds regional economies by supporting scalable startups. The 2022 competition just launched this month with a record $45 million available. The program consists of two competitions: the Venture Challenge which works to support entrepreneurship and accelerate the growth of technology-based companies; and the Capital Challenge that aims to increase access to capital in communities where funds to invest in startup businesses are in short supply. 

As our ways of life continue to transform thanks to technological advances, so does EDA’s support of new and evolving industries. Our renewed focus on the future allows communities to develop the infrastructure, workforce, and business support assets that they need to compete in today’s global economy.