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Two Louisiana Projects Among Finalists in EDA’s $1 Billion ‘Build Back Better’ Challenge

BATON ROUGE — Gov. John Bel Edwards applauded today’s announcement by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo that two Louisiana economic development projects are among the 60 finalists nationally for the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s $1 billion “Build Back Better Regional Challenge.”

The EDA American Rescue Plan program aims to boost economic pandemic recovery and rebuild American communities through what it calls “transformative investments” of up to $100 million to develop and strengthen regional industry clusters across the country. Louisiana’s proposals — which were among 60 to receive initial grants of $500,000, from a pool of 529 applicants – would establish a Gulf Coast health sciences corridor and a south Louisiana green hydrogen energy cluster.

“By awarding our state two of the 60 Build Back Better Challenge grants announced today, President Biden and Secretary of Commerce Raimondo are casting a significant vote of confidence in Louisiana’s ongoing clean energy and bioscience innovation efforts,” Gov. Edwards said. “The Greater New Orleans Development Foundation’s proposed green hydrogen energy cluster in south Louisiana would move us closer to our goal of net zero emissions by 2050. The Gulf Coast Health Sciences Corridor, led by the New Orleans BioInnovation Center, would accelerate the growth of Louisiana’s robust life sciences sector. Both projects would create new jobs, stimulate the regional economy, improve the wellbeing of our communities, and increase opportunities in underserved communities. We look forward to working with our regional and local partners to move these projects forward and make these economic visions a reality.”

The Greater New Orleans Development Foundation, the 501(c)(3) arm of Greater New Orleans Inc., led the development of the proposal for H2theFuture, a green hydrogen energy cluster designed to decarbonize the south Louisiana industrial corridor. Its components include specialized workforce training; infrastructure investment in green hydrogen, carbon utilization and sequestration and naval engineering; and the creation of New Energy Institute of America, a clean energy research center and startup incubator.

“GNO, Inc. is thrilled that a coalition from across South Louisiana – including economic development organizations, economic development districts, government partners, universities, businesses and nonprofits – has been selected to advance in the BBB Challenge,” said Michael Hecht, GNO, Inc. President & CEO.  “Louisiana has been a leader in energy and industry for generations, and the H2theFuture plan is the strategy for Louisiana to continue to lead, into a lower-carbon future. The beneficiaries will include energy workers, rural communities, and historically marginalized populations.  Moreover, the winners will be the Louisiana economy and environment.”

The New Orleans BioInnovation Center led the development of the proposal for the Gulf Coast Health Sciences Corridor, which would encompass New Orleans, Baton Rouge and the rural and suburban communities between the two cities. The project ties economic growth to improved public health by making strategic investments in health science industries and focusing workforce development on women, residents in rural areas and people of color.

“This Phase I award is a tremendous milestone in the expansion of key infrastructure developments in south Louisiana, intended to tackle some of our community’s toughest problems through innovation and economic expansion while driving growth in the BR/NO Super Region,” said Kris Khalil, Executive Director of the New Orleans BioInnovation Center. “Our coalition of leading academic research institutions, healthcare systems, economic development organizations, non-profits and businesses are working together to further strengthen Louisiana as a hub for innovation and growth in health sciences. Louisiana has a legacy of a strong healthcare sector combined with cutting-edge academic research. We look forward to the opportunity to accelerate our momentum through healthcare innovation and  biotechnology commercialization.”

Finalists will now compete for Phase 2 of the challenge, which will award 20 to 30 regional coalitions up to $100 million to implement projects that support an industry sector. The deadline for Phase 2 is March 15, 2022. Finalists who do not receive an additional award are expected to leverage the initial $500,000 grant to attract new partners and sources of funding.

“Louisiana’s outstanding showing in the Build Back Better Challenge is a testament to the strength of our economic development partnerships across the state,” LED Secretary Don Pierson said. “A broad coalition of stakeholders came together to create visionary plans for enhancing our state’s energy and life sciences sectors through innovative programming with an equity focus. I believe the outcomes resulting from this award would generate transformative economic development for the region, the state, and the greater Gulf South.”

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