WWD.com/business-news/government-trade/obama-unveils-make-it-in-america-challenge-6334695/

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration unveiled a $40 million initiative on Tuesday aimed at helping communities develop plans to encourage companies to make more of their products in America.

The U.S. Commerce and Labor Departments will fund the “Make It in America Challenge,” which is expected to award grants to 15 projects that commit to encourage “insourcing,” either through companies moving more offshore production back to the U.S.; fostering increased foreign direct investment, or providing incentives to U.S. companies to keep and expand their businesses in the U.S. There also must be a focus on developing programs to train local workers to meet expanded business needs.

While the initiative does not focus on particular industry sectors, it could have implications for textile and apparel manufacturers and retailers, all of which have shown an increasing interest in moving apparel sourcing back to the U.S. to offset rising labor costs in Asia, most notably in China.

WWD Special Report: Made in America >>

“More and more businesses are choosing to invest, create jobs and make things here in America, and this new initiative represents the latest effort by the Obama administration to build on that trend,” said Rebecca Blank, acting Commerce Secretary. “This administration’s top priority is creating American jobs, and through the Make It in America Challenge we will be supporting business’ efforts to expand here at home. By making competitive investments, the Challenge will help communities across the U.S. accelerate economic growth, attract business investment, and create jobs.”

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said the initiative “will provide comprehensive assistance to those companies and those communities committed to make it in America through innovative training programs that lead to industry-recognized credentials and arm our workforce with the skills employers want to see from Day One.”

An interagency panel will select winning applicants participating in the competition. The administration said in a fact sheet released Tuesday that successful projects will include plans to revitalize public works projects and expand and upgrade physical infrastructure; provide technical assistance to companies looking to invest in innovative technologies, new products or services or new processes to increase sales and jobs, and develop training and employment activities that support the local workforce needs of employers.

The government will publish a “Federal Funding Opportunity” by early 2013, which will provide a deadline and detailed guidelines for submitting an application.

In separate news on Tuesday, the White House, citing estimates that more than 20 million men, women and children around the globe are victims of human trafficking, issued a new executive order strengthening prohibitions against human trafficking in government contracting and expanding it to all federal contractors and subcontractors. The order also requires that contractors and subcontractors doing work abroad exceeding $500,000 to maintain compliance plans and employee awareness programs to report human trafficking violations.