Investments in Local Foods, Broadband and Energy Create Jobs and Boost Local Economies
DIXON SPRINGS – Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) Director Warren Ribley met with vendors and attendees at the Sustainable Living Expo at the Dixon Springs Agricultural Center today to highlight the state’s efforts to strengthen the Illinois economy by investing at the local level. Director Ribley was joined by Grover Webb, owner of Tanglefood Ranch, Chuck Paprocki, co-Chair of the Governor's Local Foods Farms and Jobs Council, and Drew Clark, executive director of Partnership for a Connected Illinois.
“Our investments on the local level will help pull Illinois out of this recession. Whether it’s working to fill the critical shortage in the agricultural sector, eliminating the digital divide through increased broadband access or investing in energy efficiency projects to help lower residential energy bills, Governor Quinn and I are committed to working with individuals in every corner of the state to craft a more sustainable future,” said Director Ribley.
During the event, Director Ribley shared with attendees the State's progress in supporting local foods supply chains, rural broadband and green energy development as a way of building the state’s economy.
Through DCEO’s Office of Employment and Training, the state is investing millions in workforce training programs to fill the critical shortage in Illinois' top export sector, agriculture.
$10,000 to the Shawnee Research Conservation & Development Area, Inc., to support entrepreneurism and job creation around local food system development in Southern Illinois. The project will include introductory education in specialty crop operation establishment, practical instruction in land-based enterprise development, and training in market diversification/expansion for existing producers.
More than $1 million for farmer training and Illinois colleges' curriculum development: Over the last three years, DCEO has provided more than $1 million in funding to 1) develop local foods curriculum and programs as part of community colleges' existing agriculture education programs; 2) expand business entrepreneurship components including college-based enterprises and incubators; and 3) expand community outreach to promote local foods systems.
Support of High School Career Awareness Project Challenge: Working with the Future Farmers of America, DCEO is offering challenge grants to 30 high school FFA chapters to create local foods career multimedia/marketing campaigns. The target audience is students and faculty who would otherwise remain unaware of agricultural careers. Information is available on the Illinois Farm Bureau website at www.youthed.org.
Illinois Innovation Talent Challenges adding Agriculture: The Illinois Innovation Talent Challenges provide teams of secondary and post-secondary students with career awareness by examination of real-world problems with outside professionals. Agriculture has been added in four categories: Value-Added Agriculture, Local and Regional Food Systems, Biofuel Production, and Bio-based Industrial Materials.
“DCEO is one of the state agencies taking the lead on local foods, funding projects across the state to promote sustainable practices and train the next generation of agriculturists,” said Chuck Paparocki, owner of Dayempur Farm in Anna and co-chair of the Governor's Local Food Farms & Jobs Council. “From funding a community garden in Carbondale to funding the Council's recent study, to support of Shawnee RC&D, they are literally growing local, sustainable jobs.”
Illinois continues to be leader in improving the accessibility of efficient and cost-effective broadband services in every region of the state. Director Ribley noted that Illinois has garnered more than $351 million in federal, state and private investment for building infrastructure and frontline programs to eliminate the digital divide, including a $1 million federal grant to the Shawnee Telephone Company to help move Southern Illinois, including the Dixon Springs Agricultural Center, from dial-up to broadband access.
“Governor Quinn and DCEO have made unparalleled state investments to support Illinois-based applications for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds,” said Drew Clark, Executive Director for the Partnership for a Connected Illinois. “After ten years of the State laying the groundwork, all of the pieces are finally falling in place to connect previously unserved people to the information superhighway, including economic development and worker training opportunities. Working in partnership with the State, PCI is thrilled to lead the charge on this today.”
Director Ribley also outlined multiple ways DCEO is investing in energy efficiency, renewable energy and other green energy measures as a way of boosting the state’s economic recovery. Illinois received over $100 million in federal stimulus dollars to make the State Energy Plan a reality. The State Energy Plan is funding solar and wind projects, retrofitting of traditional manufacturers for green products, and efficiency upgrades. The Plan will create 12,000 green jobs.
Other DCEO programs include the Energy Efficient Affordable Housing Construction Program (EEAHCP), which provides incentives for Illinois-based non-profit and for-profit housing developers to rehab or build using energy efficient building practices, and the State's weatherization program, boosted by the federal stimulus program to double the number of homeowners receiving weatherization services from any previous year.
DCEO is the state agency charged with job creation, economic development, and workforce training.