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Thursday, May 18, 2006




(Jackson, Mississippi) - Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and Alabama Governor Bob Riley have signed a joint memorandum of understanding that activates a federal $15 million workforce innovation grant benefiting 36 counties in the two states.


The two governors have appointed leaders to a commission for overseeing the grant, which was awarded by the U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao earlier this year. The gubernatorial appointees met in Meridian earlier this week to review the MOU and begin implementation of the grant.


“This Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development (WIRED) grant provides a special opportunity for East Mississippi and West Alabama to work together to build a highly skilled workforce in support of a 21st Century innovation economy,” Governor Barbour said. “The outstanding leaders I am appointing to represent Mississippi join with similar representatives from Alabama to form a highly qualified commission to drive this initiative.”


Governor Barbour appointed Meridian businessman Tommy Dulaney, president of Structural Steel Services, Inc.; Wade Jones, president of the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation; C.D. Smith, regional manager for BellSouth; and Dr. Wayne Stonecypher, executive director of the Mississippi State Board for Community and Junior Colleges; to represent Mississippi.


Governor Riley appointed Dr. Tim Alford, director of his Office of Workforce Development; Dr. John Covington, Superintendent of Lowndes County School District; Vicki Locke, project director of the Black Belt Action Commission; and Dr. Roy Johnson, chancellor of Alabama Post-Secondary Education; to represent Alabama.


“The only way to address the national challenge of global competition is by building strong regional economies,” Assistant Secretary of Labor Emily Stover DeRocco said in announcing the East Mississippi - West Alabama proposal as one of the 13 national winners. It is the only bi-state rural proposal among the thirteen.


“The goal of the WIRED initiative is to transform regional economies by enlisting the skills of numerous and varied partners to research and produce long-term strategic plans that prepare workers for high-skill, high-wage opportunities in the coming years and into the next decade,” Sec. Chao said in reference to the three-year grant.


In accordance with the joint MOU, Dr. Bill Scaggs, president of The Montgomery Institute in Meridian, will serve as the chairman of the commission. Additionally, the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs will serve as the fiscal agent, and The Montgomery Institute will manage grant operations. Both governors will assign key staff members to assist the Institute in implementing the grant.


“Our WIRED initiative will utilize eight community and junior colleges in both states to bring together business, education and government partners to drive workforce improvements, improve entrepreneurship and unite leadership throughout the region,” Governor Barbour said. “I have every expectation that this initiative, with the leadership we are putting in place, will successfully transform workforce and economic development in this region.”


For more information visit the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment Training Administration web page at www.doleta.gov.