Two New Orleans-Based Projects Named Finalists in $1 Billion ‘Build Back Better’ Challenge

Photo Source: “Cancer alley” by GinesAlberto is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Two New Orleans-based projects have been named national finalists for the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) $1 billion “Build Back Better Regional Challenge.”

The EDA program is part of the American Rescue Plan, and aims to encourage post-pandemic economic recovery and rebuild American communities through “transformative investments” of up to $100 million. Both of Louisiana’s finalists (along with 58 others across the United States) have received initial grants of $500,000.

“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,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards in a statement on Monday. “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 project proposed by the Greater New Orleans Development Foundation (the nonprofit arm of Greater New Orleans Inc.), is named H2theFuture and would establish a green hydrogen energy cluster intended to “decarbonize” the south Louisiana industrial corridor. H2theFuture would include several components, including specialized workforce raining, investment in green hydrogen infrastructure, and carbon sequestration, utilization, and naval engineering. In addition, the project would create a clean energy research center – the New Energy Institute of America.

“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.”

Gulf Coast Health Sciences Corridor

The second project – the Gulf Coast Health Sciences Corridor – is led by the New Orleans BioInnovation Center. The Corridor would stretch from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, including the rural and suburban communities in between the two widely known as “Cancer Alley.” The project would make investments in health science industries and focus its workforce development portion on women, rural area residents, 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.”

All finalists now compete for Phase 2 funds, which will award 20 to 30 regional coalitions with up to $100 million to implement their projects. The deadline for Phase 2 is March 15, 2022.

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