Commerce Department Announces $35 Million Space Coast Investment Competition

Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center

On Wednesday, the Department of Commerce made its preliminary announcement for the Space Coast Regional Innovation Cluster Competition. The $35 million program will fund innovative projects to help transition laid off space shuttle workers into new jobs. Proposals are due on Oct. 15.

From the announcement:

The Space Coast Regional Innovation Cluster (RIC) Competition is a fast-track competitive grant process led by the Economic Development Administration (EDA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC). The goal of this competition is to identify and fund promising job creation and economic development initiatives aligned with regional cluster and competitiveness analyses to sustain the coordinated economic development and diversification of Florida’s Space Coast region. Only applications that EDA determines have successfully demonstrated this nexus will be considered responsive under this announcement.

EDA will coordinate this competition with members of the Presidential Taskforce on Space Industry Workforce and Economic Development, including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Department of Labor (DOL), and other agencies to leverage federal resources and expertise for the benefit of Space Coast RIC Competition winners.

The culmination of the Space Shuttle Program poses significant economic challenges for Florida’s Space Coast region. However, the region is connected to a tremendous range of economic assets that can serve as the foundation for future business activity. The region’s local economic development organizations, in coordination with federal, State, and local officials; Space Shuttle Program contractors; and other key stakeholders, have worked collaboratively to develop strategies for retaining aerospace workers in the region. Investing in RICs is anticipated to promote a cohesive and reinforcing network of economic activity. A strategic plan developed by Enterprise Florida, a public-private partnership charged with promoting State-wide economic development, identified eight significant economic clusters, five of which this competition shall focus on as having the potential to sustain and spur economic growth in the Space Coast region:

  1. Aviation and Aerospace,
  2. Cleantech,
  3. Homeland Security/Defense,
  4. Information Technology, and
  5. Life Sciences.

These promising RICs offer tremendous opportunities to not only retain the Space Coast’s current workforce, but to accelerate the diversification of the regional economy. These industry clusters capitalize on the region’s powerful and unique economic assets. By encouraging applicants to think of creative and workable ways to improve the region’s economy, the Space Coast RIC Competition is designed to catalyze the advancement of Central Florida’s key RICs to drive economic growth and job creation. This initiative will build on and complement existing efforts and ensure collaboration with public, private, and nonprofit partners in the region. Applicants are expected to leverage regional strengths, capabilities, and competitive advantages.

EDA’s Economic Adjustment Assistance (EAA) Program, under which EDA expects to fund the Space Coast RIC Competition, can provide a wide range of technical, planning, and innovation infrastructure assistance, including technology transfer and commercialization. The EAA Program is designed to respond adaptively to pressing economic recovery issues and is well suited to help address the challenges faced by Florida’s Space Coast region. Assistance can support the development of a strategy to alleviate economic dislocation or support strategy implementation projects, such as innovation infrastructure, entrepreneurial development support investments, and revolving loan funds (RLFs). EDA encourages the submission of applications focused on the development and implementation of long-term, regionally based, collaborative economic development strategies. EDA will regard applications for innovation infrastructure that are substantively supported by such a strategy as more competitive and worthy of funding than applications for infrastructure projects that are not so supported.

EDA strongly encourages applicants to review the full report of the Presidential Task Force on Space Industry Workforce and Economic Development, which may be accessed, along with other materials, at http://www.nasa.gov/offices/spacecoasttaskforce/home/index.html. More information on EDA and its programs may be found at www.eda.gov.