Press Releases

Memphis’ Digital Delta selected as finalist in Build Back Better challenge

Monday, 13 December, 2021

Local coalition in competition for $100 million to supercharge Memphis economy

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Monday, Dec. 13, 2021) – A coalition led by the University of Memphis has been selected as a finalist in the $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge. As one of 60 finalists, the coalition will compete for up to $100 million in American Rescue Plan funding for their communities. 

The Memphis coalition – which, in addition to the UofM, also includes the Greater Memphis Chamber, Epicenter, Start Co., and the Memphis Area Association of Governments – plans to use the funds to develop and scale a new urban-rural innovation district known as The Digital Delta. Driven by applied technologies, the district would help create an economy of innovation that would accelerate growth in these targeted industry clusters: agri-business and food, medical device and healthcare technology, supply chain and logistics, and electric vehicles and sustainable mobility.  

As a finalist, the coalition was awarded a $500,000 planning grant. 

“The Digital Delta is an opportunity for Memphis to become the center of innovation in our region, our nation, and the world,” said Ted Townsend, chief economic development officer of the Greater Memphis Chamber. “Among large metros, we’re already No. 1 for our share of Black, Hispanic, and female tech talent. That’s one of the strengths we’re building on as we build back better than ever.” 

We plan to build back better than ever by building on our strengths. 

The U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge was designed to accelerate the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and make communities across the nation more resilient to future economic shocks. The challenge is the largest economic development initiative from the U.S. Department of Commerce in decades.  

“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. 

The 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.  

Learn more at  

Media inquiries can be directed to Ryan Poe.

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 Greater Memphis Chamber: One of Memphis’ oldest institutions, dating back to 1838, the Greater Memphis Chamber is a privately funded nonprofit that serves as the region’s lead economic development organization and the “Voice of Memphis Business” at the local, state, and national levels. The Chamber’s mission is to relentlessly pursue prosperity for all — through economic and workforce development, pro-growth advocacy, and by providing support and resources to its more than 1,000 investors, including many of the region’s largest employers. For more information about the Chamber, visit and Also, follow us on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn and Instagram, and sign up for our weekly newsletter, the Memphis Fourword.