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The WorkPlace, Inc. Wins $5 Million Federal Grant
“WIRED” project links workforce and economic development to spur growth

For immediate release
January 24, 2007

(Bridgeport, CT) January 23, 2007 – “It’s not every day that you get a call you’ve been awarded $5 million dollars!”  Joseph M. Carbone, President and CEO of The WorkPlace, Inc. has been working toward that call for more than a year.  The call came from Congressman Christopher Shays’ office last week, sharing the news that the U.S. Department of Labor has awarded $5 million to a project in Southwestern Connecticut to develop the regional economy and strengthen its workforce. 

The Southwestern Connecticut WIRED project (Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development) was among 13 regional initiatives throughout the U.S. which will receive investments on this scale intended to transform the way in which workforce and economic development is done. 

"This project addresses the key issues of competitiveness and job creation that are common to all regions of our state," said Governor M. Jodi Rell.  “We should all be proud that Connecticut is represented among the WIRED regions since the goal of this project is to develop strategies that will enable us to compete better in the global economy. Although this project is concentrated in the southwestern part of our state, the end results will be a gain for every resident of Connecticut." 

In Southwestern Connecticut, as in other parts of the state, a key challenge is the shortage (current and projected) of skilled workers to meet the needs of businesses in general and of growth industries in particular.  These include health care, financial services, and advanced manufacturing, as well as diverse professional businesses.  The region’s WIRED project will likely focus on “tapping the talent within,” including providing targeted training and other services to immigrants, low-wage workers, and youth. 

WIRED is becoming a powerful national force encouraging more broadly defined regional economies to formally develop the leadership, vision, and strategies to compete globally.  The Southwestern Connecticut project has created a distinguished Leadership Group with representatives from key business, education, government, and community organizations, chaired by Christopher Bruhl, President of The Business Council of Fairfield County.  A regional assessment is underway, and strategies to promote the region’s economic growth will be developed shortly. 

The WorkPlace, Inc., Southwestern Connecticut’s Workforce Investment Board, is the lead partner for the region’s WIRED project.  According to Joe Carbone, “This grant is wonderful news.  It means that we can truly undertake transformation, creating innovative approaches which have both immediate benefits and a lasting legacy.”  Transformation might include collaboration with neighboring Westchester County, NY on workforce and economic development initiatives of mutual benefit. 

The Southwestern Connecticut WIRED project will receive $500,000 now to develop a comprehensive “implementation blueprint” for review by the USDOL, and will receive an additional $4.5 million over three years.  

The WorkPlace, Inc. helps people prepare for careers and strengthens the workforce for employers.  It administers and coordinates job training and education to meet the needs of residents and employers in the 20 communities of the Valley-Bridgeport-Norwalk-Stamford region.

Contact: Nancy Steffens  (860) 263-6535

200 Folly Brook Boulevard, Wethersfield, CT 06109 / Phone: 860-263-6000

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