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December 13, 2021

Contact: Paul Whitescarver
Executive Director, seCTer
860-437-4659 x201

Southeastern Connecticut Enterprise Region (seCTer) chosen as finalist in Economic Development Administration (EDA)’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge! seCTer has been chosen as a finalist in EDA’s $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge, leading a coalition representing projects that will compete for up to $100 million to supercharge seCTer’s economy. The Offshore Wind Industry Cluster coalition members include: Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology (CCAT), Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments (SCCOG), Norwich Community Development Corporation (NCDC), Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board (EWIB), and University of Connecticut (UConn). seCTer’s coalition has advanced to Phase 2 of the competition and will compete for American Rescue Plan funding to develop and scale the offshore wind industry cluster in the Southeastern CT Enterprise Region.

The challenge is assisting communities nationwide in their efforts to build back better by accelerating the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and building local economies that will be resilient to future economic shocks. The Build Back Better Regional Challenge is the largest economic development initiative from the U.S. Department of Commerce in decades.

Paul Whitescarver, seCTer’s Executive Director, knows the region is ready for the challenge, stating the coalition members are, “All ahead full,” referring to his experience as a Captain (Ret.) in the U.S. Navy as he put a submarine underway. “What a great path forward for Connecticut and the southeastern region to generate economic development on a regional basis. This will allow a diversification of our blue economy and its industry partners, and build equitable solutions to job growth.”

“This is big news for eastern Connecticut’s emerging wind energy manufacturing sector,” said Congressman Joe Courtney. “Congress voted to invest in America’s workforce and supply chain at a level we haven’t seen in generations, and Captain Paul Whitescarver (USN Ret.) and his team at seCTer are going right after it—today, their application for up to $100 million in grant funding to boost Connecticut’s wind energy industry and workforce

was selected by the Department of Commerce as one of sixty finalists, from a pool of over 500 in all fifty states. Captain Whitescarver and seCTer have positioned Connecticut among just ten percent of applicants who now have a shot at serious federal funding to help grow important and emerging industries, like offshore wind energy in our region. That’s a great achievement for seCTer, and it reflects all the inputs of collaboration we’ve seen in our region these past few years—the work we’re doing on undersea logistics, the investments we’ve made in offshore wind capability, and the regional partnerships we’ve entered into with states like Rhode Island to move forward on offshore wind. Secretary Raimondo and the Department are accounting for that sort of preparation when they’re deciding where to invest these industry development grants, and we’ve positioned ourselves well for the initiative. Congratulations to Captain Whitescarver, Melinda Wilson, and the entire team at seCTer on being named finalists—I will continue to do all I can to support their application.”

seCTer is part of a regional coalition of stakeholders from government, business, nonprofits, and academia. As a finalist, the coalition was awarded $500,000 to develop an Offshore Wind Industry Cluster (OWIC) to bolster the region’s wind ecosystem and industry. The coalition proposes six projects to support this cluster, including diversifying and expanding the supply chain, providing waterfront industrial sites for development, building a green business park, leveraging a replicable workforce development model, supporting blue tech research and development, and bringing innovative new products to production. The coalition’s hub and spoke approach to the projects will center in southeastern Connecticut, with a spoke for collaboration with workforce initiatives in Bridgeport.

“The Build Back Better Regional Challenge aims to supercharge local economies and increase American competitiveness around the globe,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo.

“We are thrilled to help communities work together—in coalitions of government, nonprofits, academia, the private sector, and others—to craft ambitious and regionally unique plans to rebuild their communities,” said Alejandra Y. Castillo, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development. “These projects will help revitalize local economies and tackle our biggest challenges related to climate change, manufacturing, supply chains and more. EDA is proud to ignite these plans and help communities nationwide build back better.

Phase 1 of the Build Back Better Regional Challenge invited coalitions to apply for funding to implement a collection of three to eight distinct but related projects in their region. Projects need to be in coordination with industry and community partners, and aligned around a holistic vision to build and scale a strategic industry sector.

EDA received 529 applications from regions in all 50 states and five territories, and the 60 finalists represent regions that formed extraordinary coalitions, demonstrated regional needs, and presented bold proposals to grow their target industry clusters. Ranging fromrural communities and coastal towns to major metros, the finalists make up a diverse cross-section of the United States.

In Phase 2, finalists will compete for significant implementation assistance. EDA will award 20- 30 coalitions each up to $100 million. These awards will assist communities in executing ambitious plans to supercharge their regional economies across a variety of strategic growth sectors. The deadline for Phase 2 applications is March 15, 2022.

Learn more at

About seCTer
Southeastern Connecticut Enterprise Region (seCTer) is designated as the Economic Development Organization for the Economic Development District of Southeastern Connecticut by federal, state and local authorities. seCTer is a private, non-profit providing a broad range of services and resources to stimulate and support economic resilience and diversification within the region. The region includes the 22 cities, towns and boroughs which align with the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments.

About the American Rescue Plan Programs
The Build Back Better Regional Challenge is one of many EDA programs aimed at building strong regional economies and supporting community-led economic development. Under the American Rescue Plan, EDA was allocated $3 billion in supplemental funding to assist communities nationwide in their efforts to build back better by accelerating the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and building local economies that will be resilient to future economic shocks.

American Rescue Plan funding enables EDA to provide larger, more transformational investments across the nation while utilizing its greatest strengths, including flexible funding to support community-led economic development. With an emphasis on equity, EDA investments made under the American Rescue Plan will directly benefit previously underserved communities impacted by COVID-19. For more information about EDA’s American Rescue Plan programs, visit

About the U.S. Economic Development Administration
The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation’s regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA invests in communities and supports regional collaboration in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth. For more information about EDA, visit


Paul Whitescarver will lead Southeastern Connecticut’s designated economic development organization.

GROTON, Conn. — The Southeastern Connecticut Enterprise Region (seCTer) Board of Directors has unanimously chosen retired Navy Capt. Paul Whitescarver as its next executive director.

Whitescarver brings decades of leadership experience to the region’s designated economic development organization. He will assume the executive director position on 10/4/21.

A widely respected Navy veteran, Whitescarver was commanding officer of the Naval Submarine Base in Groton from 2015 to 2019. During his SUBASE tenure, he oversaw numerous enhancements to the base’s infrastructure and facilities and was instrumental in promoting the SUB CENTURY celebration.

Whitescarver was also instrumental in establishing and nurturing positive relationships with the region’s municipalities, agencies and community groups, and worked closely with surrounding communities to address issues of mutual concern. These efforts were recognized by the Association of Defense Communities in 2018 when the region received the Great American Defense Community Award.

Most recently, Whitescarver was operations manager for King Industries, a specialty chemical additive company based in Norwalk.

“I am thrilled to be joining an already strong team at seCTer, and to be able to help maximize economic development opportunities in Southeastern Connecticut,” Whitescarver said. “I look forward to working with our clients, communities and partners as we continue to address the economic impacts of the pandemic and grow and diversify the region’s economy”.

Priorities for seCTer in 2021-22 will be to help the region recover from the economic fallout caused by the pandemic, complete the updating of the Region’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) and assist the region in securing available state and federal recovery dollars.

Whitescarver’s initial focus will be to lead those efforts. His leadership will be crucial in helping the regional economy become stronger and more resilient in the years ahead.

“The Board strongly feels that Paul possesses the qualities that align with seCTer’s most significant priorities and challenges,” said seCTer Board Chair Mark R. Oefinger. “His leadership and management skills; his knowledge and experience with all layers or government – federal, state and local; his ability to work with others; his love of the region; his professionalism, discipline and impeccable integrity; his ability to put forth a vision, to plan and think strategically; and his ability to connect the dots will serve seCTer and the region extraordinarily well.”

Whitescarver, originally from Roanoke, Va., retired from the Navy in 2019 after nearly four decades of service. He received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business and a master’s degree from the Naval Postgraduate School. He lives in Gales Ferry with his wife Katie.

Whitescarver currently serves as board president of the Thames River Heritage Park Foundation, is on the boards of the Submarine Force Library & Museum and the USS Groton Sail Foundation, and is a member of the Ledyard Planning and Zoning Commission.