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February 9, 2004


SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod Blagojevich announced today that Belleville will receive a technology grant as part of his Opportunity Returns plan for job creation in Southwestern Illinois.  These grants, known as 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.
“By teaching technology skills to low-income residents in Belleville, this important program is providing a bridge to a future that holds much greater economic opportunity,” Governor Blagojevich said.   “Opportunity Returns is working to ensure that the Southwest region becomes more attractive and more marketable to businesses - creating more jobs for its residents.  The Eliminate the Digital Divide program is a great complement because it is helping prepare our workforce to be better qualified to seize those newly created jobs.”
The Bits and Bytes Training Institute in Belleville will receive a $33,000 grant to provide technology training in East St. Louis, Washington Park, Centerville, Alorton, Cahokia, and Belleville.  45 students and 40 adults will receive training that includes educational/academic enrichment for youth, computer literacy, Internet and e-mail access, and a variety of software proficiency courses. 
“Gaining technology literacy is crucial to being able to compete for well-paying jobs in the 21st century economy.  Through this grant to the Bits and Bytes Training Institute in Belleville, over 80 residents will enhance their computer skills and overall technological capacity.   This is an essential first step toward creating a computer-literate and highly skilled workforce and strengthening the local economy,” Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) Director Jack Lavin 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
The Opportunity Returns regional economic development plan 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 – finding areas with common economic strengths and needs, and developing a plan with specific actions for each region.  This grassroots effort for the Southwestern region is a product of significant outreach over several months with business, civic and labor leaders, and elected officials.  The more than 50 specific projects that the Governor announced in December for Southwestern Illinois are designed to be flexible and effective.  This plan is tailored to deliver real results that local businesses will see, feel, and, hopefully, profit from.


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