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Economic development coalitions showcase regional progress, face challenges together

Members of EDA-funded economic development cohorts from across the country shared challenges and opportunities to spur innovation and accelerate equitable change

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Forty-eight members of the Building Better Regions Community of Practice (BBR CoP) recently gathered in Washington, D.C., to evaluate their economic development progress and celebrate what their regional coalitions have accomplished over the past year-and-a-half. 

Hosted by nonprofit research institute RTI International, the convening was an opportunity for coalition members to connect with others who share their desire to pursue transformative and equitable place-based development. It was also an opportunity for the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA)—which established and funds the BBR CoP through the Build Back Better Regional Challenge grant program—to hear first-hand from the coalition members about how their investments are impacting communities across the country.

Workshop participants gather for a photo
Workshop participants gather for a photo

EDA Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo applauded the coalitions for forging new paths for regional transformation that also enhance America’s standing in the world.

“These coalitions are fostering the industries of the future to help build up regions throughout America, create jobs, and boost the competitiveness of our country,” said Assistant Secretary Castillo.

The BBR CoP is part of the EDA’s concerted effort to center populations and places that have been historically excluded from economic investments, including rural, indigenous, and veteran communities. 

“We can’t be competitive in the future if we aren’t taking advantage of everything our country has to offer now,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and External Affairs Cristina Killingsworth. "Through EDA-funded programs like the Building Better Regions Community of Practice, investments throughout the country are spurring innovation, creating jobs, securing America’s future, and establishing long-term partnerships that will thrive for years to come.”

Christine Roeder, Executive Vice President of the Global Epicenter of Mobility (GEM), attended the DC convening with a couple of her colleagues. With an EDA investment of around $52.2 million, GEM is transforming the Detroit area’s legacy automotive industry into a highly competitive advanced mobility cluster. 

“We build on each other’s successes,” said Roeder. “If we show you how we’re incorporating equity into every aspect of our programs, and you share how you capture data to track success, then through these conversations we end up improving the entire field of economic development. Collaboration like this is only possible because of the funding from EDA and the ongoing support they’re providing through this community of practice.”

A total of 21 coalitions representing 23 states were at the convening.

Learn more: Automated-connected-electrified (ACE) coalition keeps on truckin’

Learn more: Equitable evaluation practices for place-based development 

About the Build Back Better Regional Challenge and the Building Better Regions Community of Practice
The Build Back Better Regional Challenge is the marquee of EDA’s American Rescue Plan program that aims to boost economic recovery from the pandemic and rebuild American communities, including those historically dealing with disinvestment. The $1 billion grant competition challenged communities to identify a set of interconnected investments that, together, could transform their local economy, expand economic opportunity and competitiveness, and create thousands of good jobs. In 2022, the EDA selected 21 coalitions from a highly competitive group of 60 finalists that each received $500,000 seed grants after being selected from 529 applicants. All 60 finalists are eligible for further EDA investment by participating in the Building Better Regions Community of Practice, led by RTI International.

The Building Better Regions Community of Practice (BBR CoP) has provided a collaborative and engaging network that fosters positive changes in the economic development field. The ultimate goal is to help the individual Build Back Better Regional Challenge coalitions leverage the collective power and expertise of all 60 coalitions to ensure that they achieve maximum impact.

About the U.S. Economic Development Administration
The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation’s regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA invests in communities and supports regional collaboration in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth. For more information, visit www.eda.gov.

About RTI International
RTI International is an independent, nonprofit research institute dedicated to improving the human condition. Clients rely on us to answer questions that demand an objective and multidisciplinary approach — one that integrates expertise across the social and laboratory sciences, engineering and international development. We believe in the promise of science, and we are inspired every day to deliver on that promise for the good of people, communities and businesses around the world. For more information, visit www.rti.org.