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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 13, 2005

GOV. BLAGOJEVICH ANNOUNCES OPPORTUNITY RETURNS GRANTS TO HELP STRENGTHEN TECHNOLOGY LITERACY ACROSS WEST CENTRAL REGION

CHICAGO – Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced today the awarding of two technology grants as part of his Opportunity Returns plan for job creation in the West Central region.  These grants, part of the Eliminate the Digital Divide program, fund technology centers in low-income communities in order to provide technology skills training and access to computers and the Internet.  This program provides the critical skills that employees will need to succeed in today’s high-tech workplace.
 
“Technology skills are essential to being able to compete and succeed in today’s ever-evolving economy.  By improving technology literacy in areas that have traditionally lacked access to computers and the Internet, the Eliminate the Digital Divide program is strengthening our efforts to building a more highly-skilled workforce throughout the West Central region that has the capacity to act as greater engine of economic growth,” Gov. Blagojevich said.
 
Lantern Learning, an educational software company located in Monmouth, received $38,500 to create a Community Technology Center (CTC) of Warren County where citizens can obtain computer skills.  Lantern Learning partnered with The Rural Technology Planning Project Committee and the Western Illinois Economic Development Partnership to develop the CTC.  The organization will provide computer access to 230 residents and technology training to 360 individuals.  Contact info: Paul Schuytema, 309-734-3297.
 
John Wood Community College in Quincy received more than $38,000 to provide equipment for a computer lab in a new campus building that will house its Community Technology Center.   The CTC will provide  computer access to 3,800 people and technology training to 3,000 individuals.  Contact info: Barbara Holthaus, 217-641-4104.
 
“The best investments in any community are the ones that provide its citizens with a set of tools they can use to open new doors of opportunity.  The Eliminate the Digital Divide Program is doing exactly that by expanding access to the Internet and providing computer skill training.  Through grants like these, the Governor’s Opportunity Returns program will continue to yeild a great return on its investments,” State Senator John Sullivan (D-Rushville) said.
 
In addition to providing basic technology skills training, grant recipients can provide a variety of technology-related services, including:                                                                                                                             
 
Access to career information, employment opportunities, and related Internet job searches
 
Computerized instruction in basic literacy skills, GED preparation, and English as a Second Language instruction, including distance-learning options
 
Professional development opportunities related to technology for teachers
                                                                             
Before- and after-school technology programs for students                                                                    
 
Promotion of home access to computers
 
“There are some forms of technology whose use becomes an indispensable part of education, business and commerce.  Computers, and especially the Internet, are certainly in this class.  Gov. Blagojevich is deeply committed to making sure all communities across Illinois have access to these resources, as well as the set of skills needed to use them.  In doing so, we are expanding economic opportunity to more individuals and strengthening the economic competitiveness of this entire region,” DCEO Director Jack Lavin said.
 
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.


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