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June 6, 2013
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Recent Federal Grant Opportunities to Support Manufacturing

In recent months, a number of federal agencies have provided new grant opportunities for funding innovative manufacturing strategies and partnerships. The importance of manufacturing to metropolitan Chicago's economy was described in CMAP's manufacturing cluster drill-down report, and the region should be well-positioned to compete for these kinds of investments. This Policy Update describes several of the recent opportunities and two local applications.

Make it in America Challenge

The Make it in America Challenge is a $40 million grant program funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration (EDA) and National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST-MEP), as well as the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration (ETA). The competitive grant program is geared towards strategies that encourage foreign and domestic businesses to build and/or expand their operations in the U.S. As many as 15 awards of $4 million or less will be granted for up to three-years periods. The application deadline (May 31, 2013) has passed. Applicants were required to propose one integrated project but include three separate scopes of work tailored to the specific uses of each funding source, as follows:

  • EDA funds must leverage existing assets to attract and expand foreign and domestic firms, increase productivity, and create jobs.
  • NIST-MEP funds should connect regional supply chains and assist small- and medium-sized manufacturing enterprises (SMEs).
  • ETA funds are for training and education that prepare a workforce for high-growth industries or occupations.

Regional Response
A regional partnership between the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development, the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center, the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, the Center for Neighborhood Technology, OAI, Inc., the Calumet Area Industrial Council, and the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership has submitted an application for this grant. Known as the Cook Calumet Rail Manufacturing and Logistics Cluster (CCRMLC), the partners seek to reverse the negative economic conditions of the Calumet area by leveraging some of the region's strongest assets, including the fabricated metal and industrial machinery clusters led by innovative rail equipment manufacturers. This area also has extensive rail infrastructure adjacent to vacant industrial land on which rail manufacturers and their logistics company customers may expand. The project would bolster these existing freight and manufacturing assets of the Calumet and the current economic development programs of the region in order to establish a more vibrant and competitive industrial cluster.

National Network for Manufacturing Innovation

The National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), which includes regional hubs intended to "accelerate development and adoption of cutting-edge manufacturing technologies for making new, globally competitive products," was launched last year by the White House. The ultimate goal is to build this initiative into a network of up to 15 regional Institutes for Manufacturing Innovation (IMIs). A proposed one-time $1 billion investment in the network would fund applied research and demonstration projects, education and training, development of innovative supply-chain integration, and engagement with SMEs. The NNMI is managed and funded by multiple federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Energy, the NIST, and the National Science Foundation. In 2012, a pilot NNMI was launched in Youngstown, Ohio for an additive manufacturing center. On May 9, 2013, the White House announced funding for three additional NMMIs with money from five federal agencies totaling $200 million. Each institute will have a different focus:

  • Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation: Led by the U.S. Department of Defense, this institute will develop new, model-based design methods, virtual tools, and robotics to enhance factories by allowing them to become more agile and improve their responsiveness to market demands.
  • Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing: Also led by the U.S. Department of Defense, this institute will scale-up research to enhance metal products such as wind turbines, medical devices, engines, armored combat vehicles, and airframes in order to generate significant reductions in manufacturing and energy costs.
  • Next Generation Power Electronics Manufacturing: Led by the U.S. Department of Energy, this institute will focus on developing wide bandgap technology, which will create more compact and efficient power devices.

Applications must include multiple partners representing different facets of innovation development and must include a local match by industry. Request for Information (RFI) responses are due June 6, 2013.

Regional Response
A partnership between the University of Illinois, the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition, industry leaders, and other stakeholders are collaborating to develop a response to the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation RFI. The collaborative would build on current assets including the region's universities and specialization in manufacturing and promote growth for a more competitive manufacturing landscape.

Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership

Funded by the EDA's Economic Adjustment Assistance Program, the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) initiative is offering a new competitive grant to strengthen the ability of local communities to attract investment. With funding from multiple federal agencies, regional implementation-ready "strategy grants" will be awarded to applicants that focus on SMEs. Strategies should address gaps in the current industrial ecosystem and leverage existing assets to increase competitiveness and attract investment. Applications are due June 13, 2013.

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Commerce and several other federal agencies, through the IMCP, will issue five to six grants nationally of up to $25 million each. These grants could fund research centers, business incubators, education programs, infrastructure investments, export plans, and connections between supply-chain and stakeholders.

Conclusion

The GO TO 2040 comprehensive regional plan calls for the region to strategically promote economic growth based on existing and emerging clusters. As highlighted by CMAP's manufacturing drill-down report, metropolitan Chicago's manufacturers are in the midst of a strong resurgence, and they are well-positioned to compete in today's globalized world.These new federal initiatives could allow the region's manufacturers to capitalize on new opportunities for growth.


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