Invest Nebraska, in partnership with several community partners that collectively make up the Heartland Robotics Cluster Coalition, was named by the Economic Development Administration (EDA) as a finalist in the $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge, beating out nearly 500 applicants from 50 states and five U.S. territories.
The Heartland Robotics Cluster Coalition will advance to Phase 2 and compete for up to $100 million in American Rescue Plan funding to grow Nebraska’s robotics industry. The Build Back Better Regional Challenge is helping communities nationwide “build back better” by accelerating the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and building local economies that will be resilient to future economic shocks.
“Nebraska has the strong infrastructure assets that create the foundation for a robotics cluster,” said Invest Nebraska CEO Dan Hoffman. “This coalition is bringing together those assets with the first goal of increasing labor productivity in agriculture.”
The Heartland Robotics Cluster Coalition is part of a regional coalition of stakeholders from government, business, nonprofits and academia. Partners include The Combine AgTech Incubator, Nebraska Innovation Studio, Metropolitan Area Planning Agency, Northeast Community College, the University of Nebraska College of Engineering, Metro Community College and the Nebraska Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
As a finalist, the Heartland Robotics Cluster Coalition was awarded $500,000 to develop a collaborative plan to invest in makerspaces, education, workforce development and incubation technical assistance that would set Nebraska on a long-term path to continue as a leader in agriculture production but with greater labor productivity.
Phase 1 of the Build Back Better Regional Challenge invited coalitions to apply for funding to complete three to eight projects in their region. Sixty finalists represented regions that, in the opinion of the EDA, formed extraordinary coalitions, demonstrated regional needs and presented bold proposals to grow their target industry clusters.
Ranging from rural communities and coastal towns to major metros, the finalists make up a diverse cross-section of the U.S. In Phase 2, finalists will compete for implementation funds. EDA will award 20 – 30 coalitions up to $100 million each. These awards will help communities make plans to improve their regional economies.