The WIRED Initiative, launched in November 2005, stresses the critical role talent development plays in creating effective regional economic development strategies.
WIRED goes beyond traditional strategies for worker preparation by bringing together state, local and federal entities; academic institutions (including K-12, community colleges and universities); investment groups; foundations; and business and industry to address the challenges associated with building a globally competitive and prepared workforce.
In February 2006, following a Solicitation for Grant Applications, ETA announced 13 regions that comprise the WIRED 1st Generation. First Generation regions face various challenges in economic development and sustainability including: remaining competitive with a globalized workforce; managing existing growth opportunities; and creating a more innovative economy by focusing on developing small business. First Generation WIRED Regions were awarded $15 million over three years to revitalize their local economy.
In April, 2006, ETA added 13 additional regions, then known as the Virtual Regions. These regions received $100,000 planning grant, were invited to participate in all WIRED related activities and were given access to the tools and resources developed. In January 2007, these regions became the 2nd Generation Regions and received an immediate investment of $500,000. This investment supports the development of a comprehensive implementation plan. Upon completion and acceptance of this plan, each region will receive an additional $4.5 million investment over a three year period.
The WIRED Initiative continues to move forward; on June 20, 2007, the Employment and training Administration announced the expansion of the WIRED Initiative. Thirteen applications were selected to become the Third Generation of WIRED Regions. Each will receive a $5 million investment over a three year period.
All 39 WIRED Regions are supported by managers from ETA and the WIRED resource team, as well as access to various staff from other federal agencies. This expanded team provides the regions with tools and technical assistance that assists them with implementing their plan for regional economic growth.
Other WIRED Tools and Resources Available to 1st and 2nd Generations
In addition to the monetary investments, a number of activities are taking place in support of the WIRED regions including:
- Creation of a data tool that incorporates economic, research and development, investment and real-time job information to provide a current and accurate picture of the regional economy and its assets.
- Assignment of senior ETA managers and emerging leaders to each region for guidance and assistance with WIRED activities.
- Development of a nationwide network of foundations interested in investing in regional economic and talent development.
- Linkages to angel and venture capital networks.
- Connections to programs and investments at nine other federal agencies for regions to access and apply in support of their economic strategy.
- Partnerships with state universities and land grant colleges as well as university continuing education departments.