Rep. Wild: 'Uniquely Situated' Lehigh Valley Should Host a New Tech Hub | WDIY Local News
The greater Lehigh Valley should be the home of a new “tech hub,” according to the region’s congressional representative.
Congresswoman Susan Wild said Friday that phase one of the Regional Technology and Innovation Hubs Program, administered by the Department of Commerce, is now accepting applications.
According to a release, the program was outlined in the Regional Innovation Act of 2021, which Wild, D-7th introduced, and then was passed as part of the CHIPS and Science Act in summer 2022.
Under phase one, the Economic Development Administration will designate at least 20 tech hubs across the country, and Wild is pushing for her 7th Congressional District to host one.
“Since I introduced this legislation in 2021, as I always say, I have been a polite but squeaky wheel with the Department of Commerce,” Wild said during a Friday press call.
“And because as I’ve said many times, and have said at least twice on this call, I think there is nowhere better for a tech hub to be located than in Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District.”
These hubs will focus on accelerating investment, innovation and development in critical technologies and industries such as artificial intelligence, robotics, biotechnology, advanced material science or data storage.
The EDA said $500 million in funding is designated for the Tech Hubs Program through the FY 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act, signed by President Joe Biden in December 2022.
Wild said the region already has many of the necessary people and organizations in place.
“I think PA-07 is uniquely situated to be designated as such a tech hub thanks to the integration and collaboration already present between our academic sector, our many colleges and universities and technical schools and community colleges, our workforce development programs, our nonprofit and business community,” she explained.
“And, of course, our geographic proximity to major metropolitan areas and the ability to drive goods to most of the Eastern seaboard in a single day.
"In fact, I believe we can reach two-thirds of the United States consumer population in one day from the Lehigh Valley.”
She also pointed to the district’s legacy of manufacturing and innovation.
“Most famously of course with Bethlehem Steel and Mack Trucks,” Wild said, “and we have worked hard to come to a place where we are well positioned to take advantage of this program to propel us into a 21st century manufacturing, technology, and innovation revival.”
The phase one application process runs until Aug. 15, 2023, and includes two types of applications: one for tech hub designation and one for strategy development grants.
Only consortia are eligible to apply for the Tech Hubs Program. Each consortium must include an institute of higher education, a state or tribal government, relevant industry or firms, economic development organizations or similar groups, or labor or workforce training organizations.
According to Wild, “consortia that are applying for tech hub designation are going to have to prove that they are prepared to apply for implementation funding; that is, that they will not need a strategy development grant to further organize.”
Designated tech hubs will then be invited to apply for phase two of implementation funding, which is expected to open in Fall 2023.
At the end of phase two, the EDA will award 5-10 tech hubs with around $50-$75 million each across multiple projects.
(Original air-date: 5/15/23)