he rip-roaring global competitiveness of the “new economy” hollers loud and clear for innovative use of public and private resources to boost regional economic development, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Labor Emily Stover DeRocco said Dec. 7, 2005, in unveiling the Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development (WIRED) initiative.
“This new economy requires new systems and new structures to support it. This is our opportunity to think big and act differently,” she said. The WIRED program will seek to smash administrative barriers that “too often cocoon government programs intended for regional economies, and we’ll look to the value and opportunity to integrate public and private resources into economic development that will serve your region, your state, and our nation well,” DeRocco told a web-based seminar, or webinar. Representatives of some 500 localities were logged into the online presentation.
In a letter to governors nationwide, Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao said, “Although global competition is typically seen as a national challenge, the front lines of the battlefield are regional—where companies, workers, researchers, entrepreneurs and governments come together to create a competitive advantage in the global economy. That advantage stems from the prosperity-creating power of innovation—the ability to transform new ideas and new knowledge into advanced, high-quality products or services.”
Regions such as San Diego, Calif., Research Triangle Park, N.C., and Austin, Texas, have strengthened their competitive stances by excelling in three key areas:
| 1) Workforce development and life-long learning strategies;|
| 2) Investment and entrepreneurial strategies; and|
| 3) Regional economic-development strategies.|
Although these regions have competed masterfully, other regions have struggled in the new information- and technology-fueled global economy—especially those geographic regions much invested in manufacturing or other trade-impacted industries, the Department of Labor (DOL) explained. The upper Midwest (including Michiana), which continues to be dazed by declines in the steel and auto industries, currently resides among the lagging regions nationally. The Carolinas region also is among the competitive laggards, in light of regional slumps in industries from textiles and furniture to tobacco, all of which have squeezed jobs and wealth from the area.
The department in early February announced awarding $195 million in grants to 13 regional economies. For a related story, go to WIRED grants to 13 regions.
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