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Bristol Bay Native Association first Alaska winners of USDA grant competition

Carey RestinoThe Arctic Sounder

The Bristol Bay region fisheries and seafood processing industry got a federal boost Tuesday when the USDA announced the area was one of 13 nationwide to win the Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge.

A grant of $405,023 from the USDA Rural Development and U.S. Economic Development will go to the Bristol Bay Native Association in Dillingham to fund the Bristol Bay Jobs Accelerator Project.

"These winners were selected from a highly competitive process with 62 applications from all across the country as part of this challenge," said Matt Erskine, acting assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development. "The application process itself is not easy and I want to congratulate all the winners."

The Bristol Bay Region proposal, which was the only winner from Alaska in the two years the program has been running, is focused on building the training capacity in the Bristol Bay fisheries and seafood processing industry cluster through technical assistance to the Southwest Alaska Vocational and Education Center. Additionally, funds will be used to help organize an industry conference event and develop a regional fisheries business cooperative.

"The project will accelerate job creation in the fisheries and seafood industry through boosting workforce skills, growing seafood manufacturing and developing effective marketing linkages," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a release.

Ralph Andersen, president and CEO of the BBNA noted that the association was the first Alaska Native entity to receive this type of funding.

Last year's grants went out to 20 different projects nationwide, to the tune of $37 million aimed at creating more than 4,800 jobs and 300 new businesses. This year's program totals $9 million spread across 12 states.

Find a complete listing of the USDA grant recipients at The Arctic Sounder, where this article was originally published and is reprinted here with permission.