This report outlines the programs and the findings of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), Employment and Training Administration (ETA)'s collaboration with four other Federal agencies on two initiatives--the Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge (JIAC) grants and the Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator (AM-JAIC) grants--to promote regional economic growth and employment in high-wage occupations.

The DOL ETA, along with four other Federal agencies, allocated $58 million in grants for JIAC AM-JAIC to promote regional economic growth and employment in high-wage occupations. Through these two initiatives, 30 self-identified regional innovation clusters received grants; each of these clusters focused on an industrial sector with high growth potential in the region. Clusters are composed of geographically concentrated groups of related businesses, suppliers, service providers, and educational institutions in a particular industry.

Their purpose is to:
  • Increase productivity and economic growth by accelerating product or process development and commercialization in critical sectors and regions;
  • Support innovation and regional collaboration;
  • Train workers to enter high-skilled, high-wage industries; and
  • Support entrepreneurship and small business growth.

Site visits to nine clusters shed light on the nature and extent of collaboration that emerged. Frequent in-person meetings held shortly after the grant awards and during early implementation played an essential role in establishing regular communication among partners throughout the initiative, including presentations and information sharing to educate one another about organizational missions and available services.

This report covers research conducted between 2011 and 2016.

Major Findings & Recommendations

The findings included the following:

  • Frequent communication among cluster partners was essential for successful implementation.
  • A collaborative spirit in the region contributed to the successful implementation of activities.
  • Regional businesses and individuals looking to obtain work or advance in their careers were receptive to cluster activities.
  • The inherent collaborative nature of the grants facilitated networking in the regions.
  • Reporting requirements required more coordination and time than expected.
  • Decentralized funding and oversight at the Federal level proved to be challenging.
  • Cluster respondents reported a lack of centralized leadership within their regions.

The recommendations included the following:

  • Streamline reporting requirements.
  • Establish the same period of performance across all grants.
  • Encourage and expect consistent and frequent meetings among cluster members.
  • Fund a cluster manager position.
  • Capitalize on preexisting partnerships.