Through the American Rescue Plan (ARPA), the Economic Development Administration (EDA) is supporting states in economic planning efforts by allocating $59 million in grants through the Statewide Planning, Research & Networks program. To better understand how states are using these funds, the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC), in partnership with the State Economic Development Executives (SEDE) Network, conducted a survey of states during the summer of 2022 to learn how the $1 million grant funds were used.
Overall, 38 states responded. Of these, 19 states indicated they had spent at least some of their Statewide Planning Grant (including two that had spent the entire allocation). These states are using grants for a variety of EDA-identified activities with the following three representing the most frequent responses:
- Eleven states (57.9%) are planning to identify industry clusters,
- Eight states (42.1%) are identifying state assets to benefit the state in regional and global markets, and
- Seven states (36.8%) are bringing together existing local, regional and workforce related plans.
Other responses included 3 states which are assessing supply chains to increase efficiency or supporting broadband installations (15.8% each). Two states, a little over 10 percent, are conducting skills analyses (10.5%) and cataloging innovation gaps between urban and rural areas (10.5%). And one state is creating strategies to address communities in poverty, with another making plans to coordinate with indigenous communities.
The 36 states with funds remaining expect to continue current efforts and/or expand funding to several EDA-identified activities:
- Nineteen states (53%) intend to make plans to identify industry clusters,
- Eighteen states (50%) expect to compile existing economic, workforce, and other related plans and,
- Eighteen states (50%) also plan to identify assets to benefit their state in regional and global markets.
- Eleven states, over one fourth, plan to catalog innovation gaps between urban and rural areas and 8 states, over one fifth, plan to assess supply chains and logistics to increase their efficiency.
Seven states plan to conduct statewide skills assessments and/or support broadband expansion. And 6 states (15.8%), say they will create strategies to assist chronically impoverish communities and/or help indigenous communities to coordinate plans.
When EDA proposed the State Planning Grants, it stated that one major goal of ARPA Networks grants was to help develop “communities of practice”. Interestingly, only 2 states included regional organizations in the application development process. However, 23 states said they are including regional organizations in the activities funded by the grant, so EDDs will still play a significant collaborative role.
The EDA began soliciting Statewide Planning Grant applications in July of 2021. The relatively long turnaround (applications were due May 24, 2022) may have served to reduce post hoc changes to grant plans. Indeed, only six states indicated that their spending plans had changed in any “significant” way from what they proposed upon application. Five of the six states are not currently funding activities but do plan to in the future. There was one exception, which is currently identifying resources and assets to benefit the state in regional and global markets but indicated it did not expect to fund activities in the future. This likely indicates that their grant is almost fully expended.