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Region To See Impact From NCBiotech-led $25M Federal Award

By Staff Reports, posted Sep 8, 2022
The N.C. Biotechnology Center has received a $25 million grant award that will be used to support and enhance the state's growing life sciences sector. 

Last week, the Biden Administration announced $1 billion in awards from its Build Back Better Plan, which included the $25 million for a group of projects led by the N.C. Biotechnology Center. 

The nonprofit center represented a consortium of public and private organizations in its federal grant application submitted this spring. Funds will be attributed to a variety of initiatives outlined by the N.C.  Biotechnology Center (NCBiotech) to strengthen and grow the state’s life sciences sector. 

Randall Johnson, executive director of NCBiotech’s Southeastern office, said the community engagement component of the grant award “especially will benefit the Southeastern region with additional outreach resources to connect our diverse regional community members with the people, organizations, workforce training opportunities and industry partners needed to access rewarding careers in biomanufacturing in Southeastern North Carolina.”

This community engagement program will create ambassador and apprenticeship programs to "increase awareness of, and access to, life sciences manufacturing training and job opportunities," according to a news release.

NCBiotech's proposal was one of 21 projects chosen from 60 applicants nationwide, according to the release. Grant funds will be used to strengthen the state’s existing life sciences cluster by “expanding, connecting, and promoting training and career opportunities to underserved and distressed communities, including historically excluded populations,” according to the release. 

The process of submitting the grant award involved community coordination, according to Johnson.

“As part of this process, we built a strong team of regional partners -- industry such as Quality Chemical Labs and Alcami, UNCW leaders, eight community colleges in a nine-county region, economic and workforce development organizations," and multiple local government entities to pursue the opportunity, Johnson said.

“Together, we identified critical biomanufacturing workforce needs in the region and created a framework for needed regional workforce development initiatives,” he said. “We will continue to explore additional pathways for our fellow citizens throughout Southeastern North Carolina to access biomanufacturing training and employment opportunities and for our industry partners to meet their workforce needs.”

Programs the grant awards will fund are intended to help combat this issue and increase equity opportunities in the high-paying, high-demand sector. 

“The life sciences manufacturing cluster is at a critical point, with more than 7,000 new jobs and over $7 billion in investment announced in NC just since January 2020, and existing training programs are unable to keep up with this industry growth rate,” the center wrote in its spring proposal.

“This investment will boost our economy and strengthen our workforce for years to come,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in the release. “As North Carolina's life science sector continues to thrive and expand, we’re glad to keep working with the Biden-Harris Administration to invest in the industries that make our state great.”

NCBiotech’s senior vice president for economic development and statewide operations, Bill Bullock, said the award was “a huge win” that will “take our state’s life sciences manufacturing capability to the next level.”
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