WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — The federal government is giving Wichita State University $51.4 million. The school says the money is to advance smart manufacturing in southern Kansas.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) says it is giving the award to WSU to aid in the rapid development and adoption of emerging smart manufacturing technologies.

This is the largest single award WSU has received from the EDA.

Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Castillo visited the university for a tour and industry roundtable this summer.

“The Economic Development Administration is proud to support Wichita State University as it leads this coalition,” Castillo said in a news release. “This EDA investment brings together world-class expertise from academic institutions, leading industry players, and the public sector to strengthen the southern Kansas regional economy.”

The South Kansas coalition’s effort, led by WSU’s National Institute for Aviation Research, is referred to as “Driving Adoption: Smart Manufacturing Technologies.”

The program wants to help small and mid-sized businesses use the newest technology to be more competitive.

“The South Kansas Coalition is leveraging the region’s assets to expand aerospace production and build resiliency to thrive in a global market,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.

The grant is allocated to four priorities, including $9 million to expand and modernize training and research capacity; develop and deploy skills training needed for high-velocity machining and smart factory technologies that are multi-faceted, flexible, and resilient.

The second priority, funded at $14 million, is to provide businesses with the tools needed to successfully implement additive manufacturing (3D printing) into their supply chains and create qualified factories that deliver repeatable, robust parts.

WSU says $26 million is allocated to expand training capacity through the construction of a new facility on campus to enable the delivery of high-tech, high-wage, high-demand career guidance for students and incumbent workers in Industry 4.0 technologies.

The remaining funding will support governance and evaluation from a coalition of industry, government and economic development leaders representing 27 counties in South Kansas. This will guide the vision with industry-defined, industry-prioritized, and industry-evaluated component projects supported by benchmark data and programmatic and ecosystem metrics.

“Wichita State is proud to be a part of the team responsible for building an effective plan to strengthen regional competitiveness through a focus on smart manufacturing,” Wichita State President Rick Muma said. “In all we do, our motivation is always to serve our students, our community and our state. This award will enable us to amplify those efforts, building a better and brighter tomorrow for all Kansans.”

The South Kansas Coalition is one of 21 winners – each a regional coalition of partnering entities – that will receive awards between $25 and $65 million to implement an average of six projects that together will enable each region’s economic transformation and competitiveness. The awardees were chosen from 60 finalists in a Phase 1 applicant pool of 529 applications, which exemplifies the tremendous demand for transformational economic development across the country.

“Congratulations to Wichita State University and the South Kansas Coalition on a successful bid for this significant investment to further expand and advance the state’s aerospace manufacturing capabilities,” U.S. Senator Jerry Moran said. “I was pleased to express support for this project to both the Department of Commerce and EDA, and look forward to the growth that will occur within the aerospace community both within the state and across the country thanks to this investment.”

“South Central Kansas has a long and prosperous history in the manufacturing sector,” U.S. Senator Roger Marshall said. “This award will allow Wichita State University and its regional partners to develop a workforce framework to support new skills, roles and jobs our smart manufacturing environment requires. My staff and I have worked alongside university staff during the application process, and I applaud WSU for its forwarding-looking initiative and look forward to seeing the results of this proposal in action.”

“This investment will further one of my administration’s economic priorities: modernizing the manufacturing industry across Kansas, including in the southern part of the state,” Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said. “I am confident that by further developing the aerospace workforce, adopting cutting-edge technologies, and supporting small manufacturers, WSU and the South Kansas Coalition will ensure we remain the aviation capital of the world for years to come.”