Region to receive $5 million funding

Thursday, June 21, 2007

SIKESTON - Southeast Missouri is ready to be WIRED.

Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao announced Wednesday afternoon the U.S. Department of Labor's Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development regions will include 14 Southeast Missouri counties, including Scott, New Madrid, Mississippi and Stoddard. Described by Chao as the "Commerce Corridor," it will receive $5 million over a three-year period.

"These grants are catalysts to mobilizing the diverse array of stakeholders in a community to focus on developing the human talent that will be key to any successful regional economic plan," said Chao.

The Southeast Missouri region will use the funds to advance the manufacturing, health care, bio-fuel, inter-modal transportation, agri-

business and tourism industries. Leaders in education, business and advanced manufacturing will pool their efforts to grow these industries and the pipeline of skilled labor needed to maintain them.

Describing the application submitted by the local group as "very outstanding," Chao noted there were 70 applicants for the 13 grants awarded nationwide.

Sen. Christopher Bond, who participated in the conference call announcing the grant, said Kansas City received a previous WIRED grant. "These really can make a difference," he said.

He praised the area for using a regional approach in seeking the funding. He also commended the partnership of private and public entities which were key in the grant application's success.

"Southeast Missouri will transform its economy from one defined by shipping and the movement of goods to one in which entrepreneurship and high-tech development drive growth," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training Emily Stover DeRocco. "Through WIRED, this region will prepare workers for skilled positions in growing industries."

Buz Sutherland, who heads up the Southeast Missouri Economic Development Alliance, which was formed to cross county boundaries to improve employment opportunities in Southeast Missouri, agreed that uniting as a region in economic development and workforce development is key to Southeast Missouri's future.

"We are going to build on these opportunities, he said. "A majority of new jobs require higher education and must work with the workforce to raise those skills. Once we develop human talent we believe we will attract employers."

In addition to Scott, New Madrid, Mississippi and Stoddard counties, also a part of the Commerce Corridor are: Bollinger, Butler, Cape Girardeau, Dunklin, Iron, Madison, Pemiscot, Perry, St. Francois and Ste. Genevieve.

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