Startup Tucson Announces $420,000 Award for New Media & Design Lab, Business Help

Startup Tucson, a local 501(c)3 working to support entrepreneurs and small businesses, has been awarded $420,000 by the U.S. Economic Development Administration, as part of its recent SPRINT Challenge. 

The challenge was launched by the EDA to support the efforts of regional support organizations to help their communities respond to the challenges created by COVID through entrepreneurship and innovation.

Startup Tucson’s project will address Tucson’s need for business stabilization and job growth by providing technical assistance for growth-ready companies that are seeking to pivot or expand their existing business models.

The funding, composed of federal dollars and a local match from the University of Arizona FORGE at Roy Place, will support the development of a new Media and Design Lab in the heart of downtown Tucson within the Arizona FORGE. The Media and Design Lab will provide a wide range of equipment, software and subject matter experts to help local companies create rich media content and prototype new products to thrive in the new digital economy, unlocking their economic potential for growth. 

Additionally, the project will provide businesses with technical-assistance and skills training within the areas of e-commerce and productization and connect them with a statewide digital Commercialization Mentor Network in partnership with the Arizona Commerce Authority.

“We were motivated to secure this funding because so many of the entrepreneurs we worked with through the pandemic were finding opportunities online, but were missing some critical infrastructure to truly accelerate their business. With this grant we are able to provide not only equipment and tools, but also expertise and education to help them level-up and thrive in the post-pandemic economy.” Dre Thompson, EVP of Startup Tucson. ”Arizona FORGE at Roy Place is happy to be a key partner and supporter of this project and work alongside Startup Tucson to bring these new tools to our community.

“Local entrepreneurs are critical for our region and ensuring they have the type of support they need to grow their operations will set our city up for a faster recovery post-COVID,” said Brian Ellerman, founding director of Arizona FORGE. 

Ultimately, the goal of the project is for participating businesses to learn not only how to respond to the current economic crisis but also to be prepared for and become more resilient should any future crises arise. As a result, it is anticipated Tucson will see increased business revenues and job replacement. The program is free for companies, but will require an application. 

The program targets established companies who are ready to start to hire additional employees once they have increased their cash-flow using the program tools. In total, the grant will support 60 companies to receive intensive training, tools, and mentoring. 

Construction of the Media & Design lab will begin in May and the project will begin accepting companies into the program this summer.

To learn more about the program and sign-up to be notified of open applications, visit

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