Shoals Entrepreneurial Center Receives $997K POWER Grant for Shoals Shift


The Shoals Entrepreneurial Center was recently awarded a $997,000 grant through the Obama Administration’s Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) initiative. Local matching funds include $1M bringing the total grant impact to $2M. Grant funds will be used to diversify the local economy through future work with the University of North Alabama (UNA) and the Shoals Chamber of Commerce.

UNA and the Shoals Chamber are named as grant partners and will play a critical role in the three-year project called Shoals Shift. The project will create jobs, launch new businesses, and expand existing businesses as part of a three-state initiative.

The grant, provided by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), is designed to diversify and strengthen the economy of coal-impacted communities. The POWER initiative was developed to assist communities that have been affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power-plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries that occurred as a result of the changing economics of America’s energy production.

Giles McDaniel, Executive Director of the Shoals Entrepreneurial Center said the grant is a major accomplishment for the area. “Out of dozens of applications, we were one of the few groups selected,” said McDaniel. “We believe that our project was selected because of its reach and scope. Our work will affect nine counties in northern Alabama and two additional states. It will also increase awareness of the importance of business start-ups and industrial diversification,” he added.

The plan behind Shoals Shift is to accelerate the growth of a digital economy using the POWER grant. We plan to implement three interconnected strategies; 1) building an innovation discovery pipeline, 2) cultivating a culture of collaboration and entrepreneurship, and 3) strengthening existing businesses.
UNA President Dr. Ken Kitts said the University has already helped with building the innovation pipeline and UNA’s students will be instrumental in strengthening existing businesses.

“We are always looking for ways to strengthen ties between UNA and the community”, Kitts said. “We consider it part of our job to help diversify the local economy, so that we can keep those bright and talented minds in our area when they graduate, should they want to stay. We are very happy to be playing a part”, he said.

The Shoals Chamber of Commerce has already played a large part in helping build an innovation pipeline as well, through programs like Shoals Idea Audition and Co.Starters. Officials with the Chamber said the partners in this project have developed a simple and clearly shared vision of improving the economic well-being of the region for the benefit of current and future residents.

“This grant will provide opportunities for all businesses to find ways to grow using technology,” said Andy Mann, Chairman of the Shoals Chamber Board. “Our work through the ‘Rhythm of Commerce’ capital campaign clearly works with the projects named in the grant,” he added.

This year a total of $38.8 million has been awarded for 29 economic and workforce development projects as part of the POWER initiative.

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