Business groups, government agencies and other organizations in New Jersey can apply for federal funding under a new $26 million program that aims to build clusters in advanced manufacturing industries.
The funding program was announced today as part of an effort to "foster innovation-fueled job creation through public-private partnerships" across the country, according to a news release from the U.S. Small Business Administration. Under the program, applicants can receive grants if they demonstrate a plan to grow a regional industry cluster, in part by building ties between "local economic development opportunities and advanced manufacturing assets."
Such a program would likely resonate in New Jersey, where state officials have sought to promote clustering of industries, including manufacturing, as part of a new statewide strategic plan for economic development. The idea has been embraced by business leaders in some of the state's key development regions.
"This idea of clustering that this grant represents would appear to be consistent with what the state wants to do," said Chip Hallock, president and CEO of the Newark Regional Business Partnership. He added that the plan calls for calls for economic development "around certain clusters where we already enjoy an advantage."
A robust transportation infrastructure and proximity to a large work force are among Newark's advantages for manufacturing, Hallock said. The city currently has about 300 manufacturers that employ about 10,000 people, he said, but in the case of advanced manufacturing, a strong higher education network becomes especially attractive.
"Manufacturing and research certainly go together," he said. "So that's the thought here — that we can take the greater advantage of what Newark has, in terms of its higher education and research, and help to marry that to some manufacturing jobs around here."
The federal program targets advanced manufacturing, which includes areas like energy production, agriculture, medical and computing industries, and the security and intelligence sectors, the SBA news release said.
The SBA said it expects to select about a dozen applicants for funding, which is being awarded under the Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge competition. The grants will likely range from about $1.5 million to $2.2 million per cluster, and applicants must demonstrate that they have funds to match the federal grant money, the news release said.
Applications for the grants are due July 7, according to the news release. The funding is coming from the U.S. Commerce Department's Economic Development Administration and several other federal agencies.