U.S Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration Provides CARES Act Funding
Little Rock, Ark. (May 25, 2021) – Philander Smith College is the recipient of a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) to develop the HBCU Center of Excellence in Digital Education and Rural Workforce Development. This EDA grant, announced by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, is to be matched with $638,420 in local investment and is expected to create 65 jobs and generate $400,000 in private investment.
“The Biden Administration is committed to putting Americans back to work and providing the training needed for the jobs of today and tomorrow,” said Secretary Raimondo. “Historically Black Colleges and Universities play an important role in creating economic opportunity in their communities, and through this EDA investment Philander Smith College will develop and build a comprehensive digital learning center to provide students with the skills and opportunities needed to earn well-paying, quality jobs.”
“Philander Smith College is delighted that the funds granted by the U.S. Department of Commerce, through its Economic Development Administration, will allow us to establish the Center of Excellence in Digital Education and Rural Workforce Development to bolster our students’ education in preparation for their entrance into today’s competitive work economy,” said Dr. Roderick L. Smothers Sr., President of Philander Smith College.
Philander Smith College will use these funds to renovate and repurpose the M.L. Harris Fine Arts Center to house the Center of Excellence in Digital Education and Rural Workforce Development, including technology and professional development training spaces. Critical elements embedded in the Center will include a 500-seat state-of-the-art auditorium that will serve as the venue for large-scale economic workforce development programming and a Community Learning Lab (CLL) with multiple workstations to provide technical training and upskilling for adult learners and community members.
“For almost 150 years, Philander Smith College has played a vital role in educating and improving economic conditions for generations of minority students in Arkansas,” said Governor Asa Hutchinson. “The pandemic has also disproportionately affected minority-owned businesses, but I am confident that the funds from this CARES grant will support COVID recovery efforts by creating jobs and also by giving qualified workers the skills they need to succeed in today’s knowledge-based economy.”
Smothers added, “HBCUs are at the forefront of helping to create economic opportunities for our scholars and their families. With this award, Philander Smith College will be positioned for even greater impact as we produce highly-trained graduates who meet the needs of businesses for skilled workers in conjunction with providing support to fuel entrepreneurial aspirations.”
This project is funded under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (Public Law 116-136 PDF), which provided EDA with $1.5 billion for economic assistance programs to help communities prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.