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LaunchTN, UpSkill 901 seek grants for innovation marketplace, talent
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IN MAY, the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA) revised one of its notices of funding opportunities to expand economic development and adjustment grants, to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

BELOW are VNC's notes on separate Launch Tennessee and Memphis Chamber Foundation proposals that remain under review by EDA, plus a list of eight other Tennessee applicants that were recently declared EDA CARES grant winners:

LAUNCH TENNESSEE (Tennessee Technology Development Corp., or TTDC) -- In June, the nonprofit submitted its applications for EDA CARES funding, a topic only briefly touched upon by staff during the public portion of the nonprofit's July 16 board meeting.

Staff later deferred answering VNC questions about their proposal, pending the outcome of the grantmaking process.

VNC's subsequent review of the TTDC/LaunchTN proposal -- obtained, as in past years, from the EDA via an open-records request, shows that LaunchTN applied for a $1.75MM EDA grant, which it to be augmented with $850K in funding originating with Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD), LaunchTN's primary backer.

The proposal to EDA notes that, due to pandemic-induced budget cuts by the State of Tennessee, LaunchTN's own operating budget for FY20-21 has been cut, at least temporarily, by at least 42 percent; and, its key network partners have taken budget cuts of at least 15 percent each. (Earlier related LaunchTN budget coverage. And, related.)

LaunchTN posits that EDA funding of its proposal could, in time, help fully re-open the Tennessee economy, while enhancing longer-term economic and employment opportunities, innovation and growth.

LaunchTN also touches on the need to strengthen the state's economic resilience, an aspiration that resonates amid the pandemic.

While explaining to EDA that its network partners are the "front door" of Tennessee's innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem, the application also seems to define LaunchTN's role as that of an authentic concierge for state innovation content, events, data, small grants, technical services, and advisor-mentor and capital connections.

Its program, titled Tennessee Innovation Crowdsource Platform (TICP), which had been piloted earlier this year in harness with Gov. Bill Lee's Unified Command Group for pandemic response, features key components including robust data assets, and support of innovation challenges, information regarding possible investment opportunities, and other program-related content.

The program's early emphases will include market research; ecosystem needs assessment and gap analysis; digital connectivity; resource development, and other functions.

The multifaceted effort is to be delivered by LaunchTN, ECD and its network of partners, which includes seven nonprofit regional entrepreneur centers; the Life Science and Energy Mentor Networks; the BunkerLabs entrepreneurship organization for U.S. military veterans, and other partners in the state's most prominent verticals, as well as via industry-agnostic programs and initiatives.

Notably, the LaunchTN partner network is about to expand further: First, proposals from nonprofits wishing to build mentor programs for the Agriculture and-or Automotive/Logistics sectors are being accepted til c.o.b. Friday, July 1, right here.

Second, LaunchTN says in its EDA proposal that, subject to funding availability, it plans to pursue with NYC-based Obsidian Investment Partners (NYC) a pilot program that will have a goal of matching qualified Opportunity Zone deals with qualified capital providers.

THE MEMPHIS CHAMBER FOUNDATION submitted its proposal for its "UpSkill 901 Talent Initiative," a three-year workforce development program centered in Shelby County.

Their request seeks a roughly $1.2MM EDA grant, with locals contributing an additional $300K, for total cost of about $1.5MM.

The Upskill 901 workforce development proposal projects upskilling 10,000 workers under the grant. The effort is aligned with the Memphis and Shelby County Regional Economic Alliance (REA).

In its proposal for Upskill, the foundation listed more than 20 allies in its work, including, for example, Epicenter (dba for nonprofit Vibrant Memphis Inc.).

The Upskill 901 effort, launched in fall 2019, generally aligns with findings of a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) proposed in 2017, after a study that was partly funded by EDA. The foundation is affiliated with the Greater Memphis Chamber.

Having made several more grant-winner announcements today, EDA apparently continues to accept applications for CARES grants. In roughly the past seven weeks, USDOC's EDA has publicly announced these eight (8) CARES Act-related grants for Tennessee recipients and their peers:

. last edited 1546 29 July 2020


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Tags: agriculture, automotive, Bunker Labs, CARES Act, Department of Commerce, economic development, Economic Development Administration, energy, Epicenter, Greater Memphis Chamber, LifeScience Tennessee, logistics, Memphis Chamber Foundation, Obsidian Investment Partners, opportunity zones, Tennessee Innovation Crowdsource Platform, Tennessee Innovation Crowdsourcing Platform, Tennessee Technology Development Corporation, TICP, training, TTDC, Upskill 901, Vibrant Memphis, workforce


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