URBANA-CHAMPAIGN – Taking his Opportunity Returns message of job creation and economic growth directly to the communities it is working to serve, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today visited the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus to announce $500,000 in state support for the Information Trust Institute (ITI), a promising technology initiative that is addressing the security, reliability and survivability of our vital information systems, as well as additional funding for a host of other projects and programs in the East Central region. Each of these projects were identified by local leaders as being paramount to the region’s economic vitality and designed to produce significant returns over the near and long term.
"The advancements being made at the Information Trust Institute are as practical as they are visionary. Everyone knows that if our roads and highways are not safe and reliable, business and commerce will suffer. But the security and reliability of the vast collection of computer systems and networks we use each day are just as critical to promoting a healthy and vibrant economy. By investing in this initiative, we’re fueling the development of technology that has the capacity to provide our businesses, governments and citizens with the piece of mind needed to remain innovative in the marketplace and the tools needed to pursue new levels of growth and productivity," Gov. Blagojevich said.
Founded by a small group of University of Illinois professors in early 2004, the goal of ITI is to design better ways of organizing software/hardware networks so that a computer, or a network of computers, is capable of managing internal flaws while continuing to do its job. The development of a secure and reliable computer system infrastructure is critical to promoting the free movement of transactions, ideas, communications and discovery. While there are a number of research centers across the nation that deal with cyber security alone, ITI is one of the first to tackle the issue of trust and security in a holistic, system-driven manner.
"We want to thank Gov. Blagojevich for all of his support. ITI is a unique university-industry partnership, involving both local and national firms, to create fundamental advances in information trust and security that can be quickly transitioned into products, services and jobs," said ITI Director Prof. William H. Sanders.
The real-world applications and practical benefits of this technology are virtually all encompassing. From homeland security to telecommunications, from commercial flights to financial markets, and from the boardroom, to the classroom, to our living rooms, ITI is working to develop fundamental solutions to some of our society’s most formidable security challenges.
One concentration of the ITI team’s efforts that is of special importance to the entire nation is that of homeland security. Whether it be the need to provide no-fly lists to airlines all over the world, or ensuring the safety of our food supply, information systems are crucial to our ability to secure the homeland. ITI will be working to ensure that critical information is secure and cannot be compromised by would-be attackers.
Gov. Blagojevich’s Opportunity Returns strategy for the East Central region consists of five primary goals to address its economic and workforce development needs: supporting business attraction and development, promoting entrepreneurship and innovation, strengthening education and job training, supporting infrastructure and public transportation, and investing in agriculture, renewable energy and the environment. The East Central region includes Champaign, Douglas, Ford, Iroquois, Piatt and Vermilion counties.
"Opportunity Returns represents neither a collection of big promises nor a package of one-time awards, but instead a strategy to invest in the people and the potential of this region and deliver services on a local level. Though we’re formally unveiling it today, that strategy has been at work day in and day out over the last year and a half, building on the strengths of this region and promoting its competitive advantages. Through a continual dialogue with the region’s stakeholders, we’re forming fruitful partnerships with the area’s academic, business and government leadership that enhances the value of every dollar we invest in these communities, catalyzes more vigorous economic growth and creates more genuine opportunity for the hardworking people of the East Central region," Gov. Blagojevich said.
"The University of Illinois has been at the forefront of the information technology revolution, and I am pleased that Gov. Blagojevich is supporting strategic investments that will help us to create good jobs both in that sector and in other areas crucial to this region’s economic growth," State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson (D-Champaign) said.
The Governor announced several major initiatives and grants to create jobs and spur economic development in the East Central region, including:
$100,000 to support the development of the Chanute Air Force Base. A strategic planning grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) is being used to devise the most effective strategy for encouraging more economic development, attracting additional companies and securing federal support to help in the cleanup process at the site of the former Air Force Base in Rantoul.
Nearly $2.9 million in support to help several manufacturers in Vermilion County increase their competitiveness, including a new production line at Quaker Oats in Danville that is retaining 25 jobs, a plant expansion at Danville’s CCL creating 75 new jobs and the modernization of Silgan’s plant in Hoopeston that is retaining 125 jobs and creating 18 new ones. The investments will help retain at least 150 jobs and create nearly 100 new ones in Vermilion County.
A nearly $600,000 investment in Eagle Wings that will allow the Rantoul auto parts supplier to purchase new equipment, successfully accommodate the needs of new customers and retain all 350 of its employees.
A more than $1.7 million investment package to help open a new SUPERVALU distribution center in
Champaign-Urbana. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) is providing the support to help SUPERVALU bring a refrigerated produce warehousing distribution facility to Champaign County, creating 100 new jobs.
$300,000 in new funding for the Illini Entrepreneurship Center in Urbana-Champaign. This center is serving as a regional hub for coordinating all small business development, entrepreneurship training and
development activity, and providing entrepreneurs with the expertise, networks and tools they need to make their ventures successful. Gov. Blagojevich announced the opening of the Illini Entrepreneurship Center in July of 2003 and continues to provide the center with vital funding.
Almost $820,000 in Employer Training Investment Program (ETIP) grants to East Central region companies to bring nearly 5,400 workers up to speed with new technologies and business practices, increase their efficiency and boost competitiveness. Gov. Blagojevich announced a number of local companies that have received ETIP funding, including more than $152,000 for Meadowbrook Farms Cooperative, a manufacturer and processor of fresh pork products in Rantoul, $79,000 for Baltimore Air Coil in Ford County, an environmentally-friendly global manufacturer and marketer of heat transfer and ice thermal storage products, and more than $1,500 to Herff-Jones in Douglas County, a manufacturer and distributor of graduation apparel.
$338,000 to train more nurses in the region through Gov. Blagojevich’s Critical Skills Shortage Initiative, a vital effort to respond to critical shortages of labor in key industry sectors by helping workers learn new skills. This funding is providing assistance to incumbent, dislocated and economically disadvantaged workers to help them pursue nursing careers. This region-wide training grant should lessen the near-term nursing shortage by providing 52 students with scholarships to become registered nurses or licensed practical nurses.
Nearly $7.8 million in grants and loans to ensure water quality and public health in rural areas, including $350,000 to support the construction of an elevated water storage tank in Camargo, a $700,00 loan for a new water tank in the Village of Homer, more than $6.3 million in grants and loans for the construction of a centralized sanitary sewer collection system in Chebanse, a more than $375,000 loan to replace outdated equipment at a drinking water plant in Buckley and nearly $37,000 for a new storm drainage system in Garrett Township.
Almost $20.7 million in grants and loans to improve water quality and sanitation systems in Champaign-Urbana, including an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency loan of more than $20 million to upgrade the Urbana-Champaign Southwest Treatment Plant so that it will fully comply with water quality standards and a Community Development Assistance Program (CDAP) grant of more than $350,000 to improve storm water management in Urbana.
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.