State grant to benefit small manufacturers

CHICAGO—Gov. Rod Blagojevich today announced the awarding of a more than $60,000 workforce-training grant to the Rockford Area Economic Development Council (RAEDC), the regional economic development organization for the Rockford area, to administer a series of workforce training programs targeted at helping small manufacturing companies meet the needs of the suppliers they serve by continually developing the skill sets of their employees. An estimated 240 workers will benefit from the training at companies throughout the Rockford area.

“Manufacturing has always been the backbone of the Rock River Valley and will continue to play an important role in the economic vitality of the region. To help our manufacturers stay efficient, productive and competitive, their workforce needs to function as their greatest asset. This Opportunity Returns grant will be used to improve the skills of hundreds of workers, strengthening the caliber of small manufacturers throughout the Rockford area and ensuring they stay on the cutting-edge in the 21st Century global economy,” Gov. Blagojevich said.

The Opportunity Returns training grant comes as part of the Employer Training Investment Program (ETIP), a new generation of employer-focused, customized grants created through the “21st Century Jobs” Training Initiative. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) administers the ETIP grants, which reimburse companies and organizations for up to 50 percent of the costs of training their employees.

“Gov. Blagojevich understands that investing in the skills of our workforce is critical to retaining quality jobs and fostering economic growth in our region. Because smaller manufactures often have fewer resources to invest in workforce training, the ETIP program is really performing a vital role in supporting these companies and helping them remain viable in an increasingly competitive economy,” Rockford Mayor Doug Scott said.

The RAEDC is leading a coalition of providers for a series of training programs targeted at manufacturing companies employing less than 75 people to assure that their skill base meets the supplier needs of the larger companies that they typically service. The goal is to promote continuous development of employee skills, which in turn fosters business retention, profitability and job growth.

Nearly $1.4 million has been invested throughout the Northern Stateline region to upgrade the skills of almost 11,500 employees through Gov. Blagojevich’s Opportunity Returns program.

“Gov. Blagojevich is ensuring that our workforce is ready for the 21st Century and beyond. This innovative initiative will address the training needs necessary for small companies to remain competitive by keeping their workforce flexible and efficient, especially those businesses that act as suppliers to larger companies,” said DCEO Director Jack Lavin.

Gov. Blagojevich’s Opportunity Returns regional economic development strategy is the most aggressive, comprehensive approach to creating jobs in Illinois’ history. Since a one-size-fits-all approach to economic development just doesn’t work, the Governor has divided the state into 10 regions—each with a regional team that is empowered and expected to rapidly respond to opportunities and challenges. Opportunity Returns is about tangible, specific actions to make each region more accessible, more marketable, more entrepreneurial and more attractive to businesses. It is about upgrading the skills of the local workforce, increasing the access to capital, opening new markets, improving infrastructure, and creating and retaining jobs. Opportunity Returns is about successfully partnering with companies and communities, both large and small, to help all of Illinois reach its economic potential.

From the April 6-12, 2005, issue

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