The Obama administration unveiled Tuesday a $40 million 'Make it in America' contest aimed at encouraging companies to bring jobs back from overseas and boosting foreign direct investment.

"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," Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank said in a statement.

The department said companies eligible for an award must have a project to encourage insourcing, either through on-shoring of productive activity by U.S. firms, fostering increased foreign investment into the United States, or incentivizing U.S. companies to keep their businesses and jobs at home.

Training local workers to meet the needs of those businesses and the project's sustainability were also among the criteria.

The announcement of the Make it in America Challenge came six weeks before the November 6 election.

President Barack Obama is fighting a tight race for re-election against Republican rival Mitt Romney in a campaign dominated by voters' concerns about the sluggish economy and, particularly, persistently high unemployment.

Detailed application guidelines for the Make it in America grant funding will be published by early 2013, the Commerce Department said. The initiative is expected to give out roughly 15 awards.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012