Advanced Pharmaceutical Cluster Growth Project chosen as finalist in EDA’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge; the coalition will compete for up to $100 million to supercharge the economy of Central Virginia

The coalition of public and private organizations in support of creating an advanced pharmaceutical cluster in Central Virginia was named by the Economic Development Administration (EDA) as a finalist in the $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge. The coalition will advance to develop and scale the advanced pharmaceutical industry in Central Virginia.

The challenge is assisting communities nationwide in their efforts to build back better by accelerating the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and building local economies that will be resilient to future economic shocks. The Build Back Better Regional Challenge is the largest economic development initiative from the U.S. Department of Commerce in decades.

“Growing the advanced pharmaceutical manufacturing industry in Central Virginia will benefit not only the region, but the nation, as it is an issue of national security, as many of our country’s most essential medicines are currently being produced overseas,” said Chandra Briggman, President and CEO of Activation Capital, a leading entrepreneurship and ecosystem development organization.

Activation Capital is part of a regional coalition of stakeholders from government, business, nonprofits, and academia. As a finalist, the coalition was awarded $500,000 to develop a plan to scale the existing advanced pharmaceutical manufacturing and R&D cluster by creating the “Advanced Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Cluster Growth Project.” There are six component projects to invest in infrastructure, workforce development, and education. The construction-related projects include a pharma manufacturing demonstration facility as well as an expansion of wet lab space in Richmond, Virginia’s Bio+Tech Park.

“We’re thrilled to have the Richmond MSA’s proposal on advanced pharmaceutical manufacturing selected as among the top 10 percent of all proposals submitted,” said Jennifer Wakefield, president and CEO of the Greater Richmond Partnership. “This is a critical win for the region and an important next step in the work to revolutionize how pharmaceuticals are made here in the U.S.”

“Congratulations to Activation Capital and the Richmond/Petersburg region for being awarded a Phase 1 Technical Assistance Grant from the Build Back Better Regional Challenge,” said Mayor Levar Stoney. “Life Science innovation is one of the pillars of Richmond’s economic growth, and this sector and our city will be stronger with the acceleration of the Advanced Pharmaceutical Manufacturing and Research & Development Cluster. Richmond is proud to be a home to this growing industry that will positively impact the health and economic future of many people.”

“This EDA grant is essential in the long-term planning and growth of the Pharmaceutical Cluster in Petersburg and Richmond regions. Work can now move forward in workforce training, developing the infrastructure and other tools needed that will ensure this critical industry is successful in Virginia.” Petersburg Mayor and Vice-Chair of the Crater Planning District Commission, Sam Parham.

“Advanced manufacturing is a longstanding target industry in Petersburg and we are proud that essential ingredients for medicines are again ‘Made in the USA’ — creating reshoring opportunities for American workers,” said Keith Boswell, President & CEO of Virginia’s Gateway Region Economic Development Organization. “Hundreds more of those jobs are close at hand with the launch of the Cluster Accelerator. Now is the time for supporting companies to join this cluster in the Gateway Region.”

“The Build Back Better Regional Challenge aims to supercharge local economies and increase American competitiveness around the globe,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. “The outpouring of interest in this program shows the demand for the Build Back Better agenda and the desire to not only create good-paying jobs, but also strengthen our country’s economic resiliency for years down the road.”

Phase 1 of the Build Back Better Regional Challenge invited coalitions to apply for funding to implement a collection of three to eight distinct but related projects in their region. Projects need to be in coordination with industry and community partners, and aligned around a holistic vision to build and scale a strategic industry sector.

EDA received 529 applications from regions in all 50 states and five territories, and the 60 finalists represent regions that formed extraordinary coalitions, demonstrated regional needs,
and presented bold proposals to grow their target industry clusters. Ranging from rural communities and coastal towns to major metros, the finalists make up a diverse cross-section of the United States.

In Phase 2, finalists will compete for significant implementation assistance. EDA will award 20-30 coalitions each up to $100 million. These awards will assist communities in executing ambitious plans to supercharge their regional economies across a variety of strategic growth sectors. The deadline for Phase 2 applications is March 15, 2022.

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About the American Rescue Plan Programs
The Build Back Better Regional Challenge is one of many EDA programs aimed at building strong regional economies and supporting community-led economic development. Under the American Rescue Plan, EDA was allocated $3 billion in supplemental funding to assist communities nationwide in their efforts to build back better by accelerating the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and building local economies that will be resilient to future economic shocks. American Rescue Plan funding enables EDA to provide larger, more transformational investments across the nation while utilizing its greatest strengths, including flexible funding to support community-led economic development. With an emphasis on equity, EDA investments made under the American Rescue Plan will directly benefit previously underserved communities impacted by COVID-19. For more information about EDA’s American Rescue Plan programs, visit

About the U.S. Economic Development Administration
The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation’s regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA invests in communities and supports regional collaboration in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth. For more information about EDA, visit

About the Cluster Growth Project for Advanced Pharmaceutical Manufacturing
The Cluster Accelerator is an initiative designed to accelerate the scale-up of a globally competitive ecosystem in Central Virginia focused on manufacturing critically important medicines within the United States. The initiative is led by a multi-jurisdictional coalition of public and private sector stakeholders actively engaged in the cluster’s R&D, manufacturing, workforce development, and supply chain development. The founding leadership board includes Activation Capital, AMPAC Fine Chemicals, the City of Petersburg, the City of Richmond, Civica Inc., the Community College Workforce Alliance, the Greater Richmond Partnership, Medicines for All Institute at Virginia Commonwealth University, Phlow Corporation, Virginia Economic Development Partnership, Virginia’s Gateway Region, and Virginia State University. The process, participants, and strategic plan for the Cluster Accelerator can be found here.

About Activation Capital
Established in 1993, the Virginia Biotechnology Research Partnership Authority (dba Activation Capital) is a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Its mission is to grow life sciences and other advanced technology innovation by promoting scientific research and economic development that attracts and creates new jobs and companies. With 1.2 million square feet of space developed on over 34 acres, its Virginia Bio+Tech Park is the hub of life science and technology innovations in Central Virginia. Activation Capital also serves as a leading innovation ecosystem development organization providing social, knowledge, and financial capital to clusters, entrepreneur support organizations, and entrepreneurs – accelerating their progress through development and maturation. For more information, visit

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