CLEMSON — South Carolina’s advanced manufacturing and workforce development efforts took a significant step forward Tuesday when the U.S. Department of Commerce and other departments and groups awarded Clemson University more than $3.5 million to support regional economic development and advanced skills training.

As part of the federal government’s Make it in America Challenge, the Clemson University Center for Workforce Development will receive $3,549,610 of a $20.5 million funding program designed to encourage U.S. companies to keep, expand or re-shore their manufacturing operations —and jobs— in America, and to entice foreign companies to build facilities and make their products here.

The Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration, the Labor Department’s Employment and Training Administration and the Delta Regional Authority are providing funding for the winning proposals. Additionally, Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership plans to make awards in early in the 2014 fiscal year.

Kris Frady, operations director of Clemson’s Center for Workforce Development, said this award will be a key component of the center’s workforce development initiatives.

“This will enable us to expand the center’s programs and help create manufacturing jobs in South Carolina,” Frady said.

The Make it in America Challenge, issued in March, allowed applicants to submit one funding proposal. Click here for the list of winners.

Clemson’s application focused on encouraging in-sourcing, domestic company expansion and foreign direct investment.

The project will create a statewide workforce “Virtual Innovation Hub” that will utilize distance learning and provide technical assistance in innovation engineering. Clemson University will collaborate with Work Link, Greenville Technical College, Northeastern Technical College, Tri-County College, the S.C. Manufacturing Extension Partnership and others.

The funding also will finance an addition to and partial renovation of Freeman Hall to establish the Select S.C. Innovation Hub, a digital innovation center built on Clemson University’s campus and run by the Center for Workforce Development.

The center will give economic development offices, state agencies and education institutions access to state-of-the-art digital learning tools, equipment and expertise, among other roles.

Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering and Science at Clemson, said the funding will allow the center to take a holistic approach to economic development and innovation.

“This initiative ties engineering and science with economic development to help place South Carolina at the forefront of advanced manufacturing and job creation,” he said.