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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 20, 2000

Ryan Unveils New Program to Help Disadvantaged Communities
Awards $650,000 in Illinois FIRST funding for brownfield cleanup

HARVEY -- Governor George H. Ryan today announced the start of the Illinois Workforce Advantage, a program designed to strengthen the state's delivery of human services and bolster economic development in Illinois' distressed communities.

"The Illinois Workforce Advantage will serve as a new coordinated, community-based initiative to improve the health and quality of life in Illinois communities and will help address and break down barriers to employment," Ryan said.

"We are launching this pilot program in six communities that are struggling with health concerns and economic issues -- places where residents may face economic and social barriers, but places where the people also show great potential."

The Illinois Workforce Advantage, or IWA, is designed to develop an integrated and coordinated system of programs and services in each community. The combined delivery of services will improve the effectiveness and success of each individual program.

The initial six IWA communities are: Harvey, East St. Louis, the Englewood, Humboldt Park and North Lawndale neighborhoods in Chicago, as well as Illinois "southern seven" counties -- Alexander, Hardin, Johnson, Massac, Pope, Pulaski and Union.

IWA will work closely with community organizations, local government officials, community leaders and residents to identify the local problems and assets that are most important to their community

Although the strategies that will emerge in the different communities will vary, certain critical initiatives will be given high priority throughout the project. These are:

  • Working with and strengthening local Department of Human Services and other state offices to maximize one-stop information provision and service delivery for community residents.

  • Tailoring Department of Commerce and Community Affairs economic development initiatives to the economic deficits and strengths in each community or region.

  • Strengthening juvenile delinquency prevention and crime prevention efforts.

  • Targeting environmental issues that impact community revitalization.

  • Training and infrastructure programs to bridge the "digital divide."

The "digital divide" exists when disadvantaged communities do not have access to computer and Internet services and a host of other technology-related services.

"Technology is at the core of many challenges facing communities," Ryan said. "Challenges involving education, workforce and healthcare. We must keep up with the global economy to make certain that no one-no matter where they live-is left behind."

Ryan unveiled the IWA program at Riley Pre-School and Alternative Center in south suburban Harvey. The school is a good example of high quality, school-based, integrated service delivery. It has also taken strides in bridging the "digital divide" by providing access to computers and increasing the capacity of teachers and staff to incorporate technology into learning.

To illustrate the impact of the Illinois Workforce Advantage, Ryan also announced the city of Harvey will receive $650,000 in Illinois FIRST funds to aid in the cleanup of a brownfield site, resulting in redevelopment of the land.

The former Wyman-Gordon steel mill property will be converted to a business industrial park with the multi-use tenants including a transportation center and is expected to lead to hundreds of new jobs for the South Suburbs.

"This is another example of Illinois FIRST improving the quality of life for local communities," Ryan said. 'We are assisting Harvey in reclaiming this brownfield site so they can turn it into a viable location for business development, which will have a positive economic impact on the surrounding community."

The Illinois FIRST funds will be distributed through the Linked Development Program administered by DCCA.

"A major thrust of Governor Ryan's economic development program has been to rejuvenate brownfield sites, especially in economically depressed areas," DCCA Director Pam McDonough said. "Locations such as the Wyman-Gordon property were once vibrant economic engines for communities and with the help of infrastructure funding through the Illinois FIRST program, we can start the process to return them to that role."

Ryan also announced the Illinois Development Finance Authority is providing $6.1 million low-cost financing assistance to Coburn Steel Products, Inc. Through this project, Harvey will retain 42 jobs while creating an estimated 108 new jobs.

"By requiring better outcomes from human services, creating jobs and improving the economic structure of a neighborhood, the state can help communities become healthier places to raise a family," Ryan added.



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