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Remarks by Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross at the Scaling Pandemic Resilience through Innovation and Technology (SPRINT) Challenge Announcement in St. Petersburg, Florida


Introduced by Mike Meidel, Director, Pinellas County Economic Development

Thank you, Mike, for that kind introduction and for your commitment to outreach, education and service to your community as a leader in economic development here in the Tampa Bay region.

I am pleased to join you here in Pinellas County, a flourishing high-tech hub, with your 31,000 advanced manufacturing workers and 22,000 technology workers. Your county is home to the second-largest manufacturing employment base in Florida, and to Fortune 500 tech manufacturers Jabil Circuit and Tech Data.

The work your citizens do to develop technologies and supply chains locally is so critical as we emerge from the devastation of COVID-19. And it is important that we continue to develop them in support of the networks and resources entrepreneurs need in this new operating environment.

As we advance through the economic recovery period, businesses and families can rely on American-made products, American innovation, and American tech to build more resilient regional economies for the future. And the Trump Administration stands ready to assist America’s innovators wishing to answer that call, here in Pinellas County, and across the country.

To that end, I am pleased to announce the launch of my Department’s new $25 million national competition, hosted by the Economic Development Administration - the Scaling Pandemic Resilience through Innovation and Technology, or SPRINT Challenge.

The SPRINT Challenge is funded by the President’s CARES Act to enable organizations across our nation to address the economic, health, and safety risks caused by this or future pandemics by inspiring entrepreneurship and innovation.

Throughout our history, intrepid American innovators have solved problems and ensured our economic competitiveness. The Trump Administration is counting on them to help the country through this and future pandemics.

The SPRINT Challenge will harness America’s entrepreneurship potential to respond to the challenges caused by the Coronavirus.

And it will fund projects in four strategic focus areas:

  • Scaling innovative biotechnology, health security, and supply chain technologies;
  • Developing new and unique investment capital models;
  • Developing and scaling entrepreneurship support models;
  • And increasing regional and government connectivity.

Eligibility is open to public or private non-profit organizations, associations cooperating with a State or political subdivision of a State, or an Indian Tribe. And applicants may request up to $500,000 over a 12-month period of performance, or up to $750,000 over an 18-month period of performance. Proposals will be accepted until December 3, 2020.

And, it will be administered by EDA’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIE). OIE is committed to furthering technology based economic development initiatives that accelerate high quality job growth, create economic opportunities, and support the next generation of industry leading companies. Since 2017, OIE has made 178 grants, totaling $94 million matched by $120 million in local support, to drive innovation and entrepreneurship nationwide.

And this year, when President Trump signed the CARES Act, he provided my Department with $1.5 billion to help communities “prevent, prepare for, and respond to Coronavirus” through EDA’s Economic Adjustment Assistance program. To date, EDA has invested $805.3 million in more than 780 CARES Act Recovery Assistance projects across the country. Fifteen of those grants were awarded here in Florida, totaling $11.2 million.

These numbers will continue to grow in Florida and across the country, thanks in part to the SPRINT Challenge. I look forward to reviewing the ideas and inventive proposals submitted for this challenge. We need them.

Good luck to all of the applicants. And thank you again for welcoming me to Southwest Florida. It’s a pleasure to be here. Now, I look forward to your questions.