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WIRED update: Alabama-Mississippi, Maine, Connecticut, New York, Virginia-West Virginia December 5, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Economic Development, Innovation, WIRED, Workforce.
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Many updates from the world of WIRED:

Alabama-Mississippi: Businessman Tommy Dulaney received the Meridian Junior Auxiliary’s Humanitarian of the Year Award. He is a member of the Alabama-Mississippi WIRED (Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development) Project.

Maine (free registration required): Maine’s WIRED project was discussed at a seminar on manufacturing innovation called “American Competitiveness: Global Innovation Networks vs. Regional Innovation Hubs,” held at the Council for Foreign Relations in New York City:

Karen Gordon Mills [discussed] innovation on the small scale. Mills, who founded Solera Capital in 1999, has been involved in a project to revitalize Maine’s shipbuilding industry by forming a cluster of manufacturers and local academic institutions that collectively will help develop the workforce, the brand, and the innovation that goes into shipbuilding.

The project benefited from a $5 million grant obtained through the U.S. Department of Labor’s WIRED program (Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development). Following the success of the shipbuilding cluster, Mills said, Maine is looking to create 10 more throughout the state.

This is a really good article that deserves a read as it places the WIRED initiative firmly in the context of larger business innovation notions – in this case, regional manufacturing innovation.

Connecticut & New York: In one of the best articles that I’ve seen on WIRED, we learn of the Connecticut WIRED program (a second tier grant recipient) and the Finger Lakes WIRED program in upstate New York. On Connecticut:

[WorkPlace, Inc. of Bridgeport, CT] joined 13 nationally as a “WIRED virtual community,” along with groups representing northern New Jersey and the Trenton, N.J.-Wilmington, Del., corridor.

The virtual communities are to establish a mentor-protege relationship with a WIRED community, while providing supporting information and resources.

The virtual groups received a $100,000 grant, an ETA liaison, access to documents and software, and the opportunity to participate in WIRED seminars.

The Southwest Connecticut Workforce Investment Area targeted by Workplace Inc. includes all of Fairfield County and five New Haven County towns just to the northeast: Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Derby, Oxford and Seymour.

According to a community “audit and needs” assessment commissioned by Workplace, Carbone said he is opening preliminary discussions with stakeholders in Westchester County about including the area in Workplace Inc.’s next attempt to secure a WIRED grant in a few years.

On the Finger Lakes WIRED project:

Upstate New York’s Finger Lakes Partnership, one of the 13 grant winners this year, provides a blueprint on how such a program might be structured. The group has indicated it plans to supplement its $15 million federal grant with $22 million in additional funding, and initially is spending its WIRED grant to sponsor:

  • Technology commercialization and entrepreneurship programs at Rochester Institute of Technology and the University of Rochester;
  • A six-month training program for entrepreneurs featuring a “boot camp” and workshops;
  • Workshops to connect inventors with entrepreneurs;
  • Seminars on how to obtain Small Business Innovation Research grants from federal agencies;
  • A program to accelerate the commercialization of university research and “orphan” research languishing at corporations;
  • “Scholarships” to train workers and educators;
  • An apprentice system;
  • Tools to identify companies with a high likelihood of expansion or contraction; and
  • A Web portal to link stakeholders.

The group reportedly is considering up to a dozen additional initiatives, including helping companies better collaborate.

New York: The Finger Lakes WIRED program is expanding…

Businesses in the nine-county Finger Lakes region can now apply for training grants of up to $50,000. The grants previously had a $25,000 ceiling. The program will award a total of $650,000 for training that can be completed within 12 months.

The board also added two industries eligible to apply: information technology and engineering. Other companies that can apply are those in the fields of optics and imaging, biotech and life sciences, food and agriculture, advanced manufacturing, alternative energy, information technology, engineering, business services and health care.

So far, seven companies in four counties have received grants, said Matthew Hurlbutt, managing director of Finger Lakes WIRED.

Virginia-West Virginia: The governors of the two states convened a session in Bluefield, West Virginia to discuss the two-state economic region covering the Bluefield area. Sounds like the discussion was promising:

The roundtable discussion wasn’t dominated by political discourse. Instead, business leaders talked about regional projects including the Bluestone Business and Technology Center project, but also other concepts like the WIRED (Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development) program as well as a partnership between Virginia Tech and Bluefield State College in the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute.

“All of us are tied across the state lines,” Jim Spencer, Tazewell County administrator said. Spencer explained how the two communities are already working in concert across the state lines to advance projects that benefit the entire region.

“This Bluefield is one market area,” Manchin said. “I can’t tell, driving down the street, what side of the state line I’m on.”

This last article is interesting…from the Employment & Training Administration’s Combined Region Fact Sheet, I don’t see Virginia or West Virginia as WIRED regions.

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