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8/20/10 Urban Affairs Weekly Newsletter

A weekly look at recent and upcoming events in urban policy from the Office of Urban Affairs.

Top News

President Obama Touts American Innovation, Manufacturing in Wisconsin: On a trip to Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, this week, the President visited the ZBB Energy Corporation, where advanced zinc bromide flow batteries and intelligent control platforms, are manufactured.  The batteries and platforms are crucial components of a smart energy grid and expanding the commercialization of electric vehicles and allow users to cut costs by shifting energy use to off-peak hours and bank intermittent sources of energy like the sun and wind for future use. ZBB Energy Corporation is using $1.3 million in Recovery Act State Energy Program loans to fund a $4.5 million factory renovation to triple their capacity to manufacture flow batteries and power systems, which has allowed them to retain and hire new workers.

The President Calls on Congress to Put Small Business Assistance to a Vote: After visiting small businesses and talk with small business owners around the country this week, President Obama delivered remarks calling on the partisan minority in Congress to stop blocking legislation that would make loans more available and cut taxes for small businesses. “I have been adamant about this because small businesses are the backbone of our economy.  They create two out of every three new jobs in this country. And while a lot of big businesses and big banks have started recovering from this recession, small businesses and community banks that loan to small businesses have been lagging behind.  They need help.  And if we want this economy to create more jobs more quickly, we need to help them.”

Vice President Biden Announces Broadband Projects to Expand Economic Opportunity: Vice President Biden, this week, announced $1.8 billion for Recovery Act investments in broadband projects that will create jobs and expand economic opportunities in 37 states.  These investments in high-speed Internet infrastructure will help bridge the technological divide in communities left in the 20th century economy and support improvements in education, healthcare, and public safety. “The awards are another great example of how the Recovery Act is creating jobs upfront, while also building a foundation for sustainable job creation and global competitiveness,” the Vice President said.

Over 8,000 Affordable Homes Become Energy Efficient With Recovery Act Retrofit Awards: U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan announced that 100 affordable housing developments around the country, including 8,112 homes, have been awarded more than $100 million to complete energy efficient renovations with Recovery Act funds. These renovations will not only make necessary upgrades to thousands of affordable apartments, but will also create jobs and save money for residents. The awards are part of HUD’s Green Retrofit Program for Multifamily Housing, created for the first time through the Recovery Act. The program provides $250 million nationally to reduce energy costs, cut water consumption, and improve indoor air quality. The 100 awards announced this week will create an average energy savings of $33,000 per property, or $3.3 million annually.

DOT Sees Overwhelming Response of States Seeking High-Speed Rail Funding: U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced this week that the Federal Railroad Administration has received 77 applications from 25 states for the most recent round of High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail grant funding. The funding will support high-speed rail corridor development programs and smaller, individual projects within rail corridors that are ready to begin construction. “The response to our call to transform America’s transportation landscape has been tremendous and shows the country is ready for high-speed rail,” Secretary LaHood said.  “We have received strong bi-partisan support for President Obama’s bold initiative that will enhance regional mobility, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, ease highway and airport congestion and reduce our carbon footprint.”

Secretary Locke Announces $31.3 Million for Restoration and Recovery in Louisiana Gulf: During his third visit to the Gulf Coast since June, U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, this week, announced $31.3 million in coastal restoration and economic development grants for Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. The grants will fund the restoration of a critical barrier headland that protects vital bay and wetland habitats and the deployment of 21 Assessment and Evaluation teams to communities affected by the BP oil spill in the Gulf. Speaking on the funding Secretary Lock said, “These grants are another sign of this administration’s commitment to help the Gulf Coast’s economy and environment recover in the wake of the BP oil spill.”

Treasury Announces $104.8 Million to Expand Access to Capital in Underserved Areas: This week, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund announced $104.8 million in awards for 179 local financial institutions serving struggling communities in 44 states and the District of Columbia. These grants will help financial institutions support local entrepreneurs and small businesses and spur local economic growth and recovery by expanding access to capital and affordable financial services in underserved areas.  The grants represent the largest single round of awards in the CDFI Fund’s history.  “CDFIs play a critical role financing small businesses and providing access to capital where it is needed most,” said Treasurer of the United States Rosie Rios. “The awards we are announcing today will provide critical support to local financial institutions, which are on the front lines creating jobs and economic opportunity in communities across the country.”


Urban Update, Regional Innovation Clusters: Barry Johnson, Senior Advisor and Director of Strategic Initiatives at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Agency, writes on the efforts of the White House Regional Innovation Cluster Working Group. The group works to develop collaborative federal funding streams in an effort to make coordinated, flexible, and regionally-customized investments in places to obtaining maximum return on a region’s unique economic assets and competitive strengths.

Foreign Policy, Beyond City Limits: In an article in Foreign Policy, Parrag Khanna writes on the new urbanized era and the increasing power of cities around the world. Khanna writes, “…cities are the real magnets of economies, the innovators of politics, and, increasingly, the drivers of diplomacy. Those that aren't capitals act like they are…This new world of cities won't obey the same rules as the old compact of nations; they will write their own opportunistic codes of conduct, animated by the need for efficiency, connectivity, and security above all else.”

Funding Opportunities

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Choice Neighborhood Pre-Notice: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development posted the Choice Neighborhood FY 2010 Notice of Funding Availability Pre-Notice to give potential applicants guidance prior to the actual Choice Neighborhoods funding notice that will be published this summer. The guidance offers advance details regarding the application process to compete for funds through this pilot program.

Tiger II Discretionary Grants Program, Deadline August 23: The Department of Transportation is soliciting applications for the "TIGER II" discretionary grant program, a $600 million competitive transportation grant program for surface transportation projects.

Sustainable Communities Grants, Deadline August 23: The U.S. Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development have joined together to award up to $75 million in funding–$35 million in TIGER II Planning Grants and $40 million in Sustainable Community Challenge Grants–for localized planning activities that ultimately lead to projects that integrate transportation, housing, and economic development.

HUD Sustainable Regional Planning Grant, Deadline August 23: The U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development is seeking applicants for their $100 million Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant program. The program is designed to create stronger, more sustainable communities by connecting housing to jobs, fostering local innovation, and building a clean energy economy. The grant is part of the DOT, HUD, EPA partnership.

EDA Innovation in Economic Development Competition, Deadline August 27: The Economic Development Administration announced funding for projects that advance innovation, boost competitiveness, and create jobs. Grants will be given to innovations in commercialization, regional innovation clusters, global export promotion, and green technology.

Upcoming Events

August 25th —Alaina Beverly, Associate Director of the Office of Urban Affairs, will participate in a meeting on Global Sustainable Urban Development Wednesday in Washington, D.C.