Friday, July 23


Governor announces up to $1.5 million
to assist laid-off Mitsubishi workers
and their families    
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Local stakeholders will play important role in determining how funds will be used

[JULY 23, 2004]  SPRINGFIELD -- Responding to Wednesday's disheartening news that Mitsubishi Motors North America plans to lay off 1,200 workers at its Normal plant, Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced a comprehensive strategy Thursday to provide transition services to the workers and their families and to help every laid-off worker regain quality employment as quickly as possible.

"The news that Mitsubishi Motors will be laying off 1,200 employees is very tough to swallow. The decision to scale back operations certainly doesn't reflect on the caliber of performance or the work ethic of the autoworkers at the Normal plant. But now is the time to help the workers and their families move forward," Gov. Blagojevich said.

"From this point on, our financial and human resources will be dedicated entirely to helping these workers get back on their feet and back into quality jobs. The North Central region [in the Opportunity Returns program] has a diversified and vibrant economy ripe with many new opportunities. It is our mission to work closely with the local stakeholders and Mitsubishi to provide a set of comprehensive services that will help these workers seize those opportunities. We won't rest until we accomplish that," he said.

The governor is directing the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to allocate up to $1.5 million in funds to assist the employees and their families affected by the announcement of the mass layoff by Mitsubishi Motors. Union officials, Mitsubishi Motors, the local work force investment board, economic development and business leaders, educational institutions, and local elected officials will begin an almost immediate dialogue with state officials to ensure that the programs and services delivered are highly specialized and entirely need-based.

The United Workforce Development Board, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and the Illinois Department of Employment Security will partner together in providing a comprehensive suite of services. Those services can include comprehensive assessment, counseling, employment and job search assistance, as well as customized education and training programs for laid-off workers and their spouses. Assistance through community-based organizations can also provide work support services, individual and family counseling, and social services.

"We are incredibly appreciative of the innovative support Governor Blagojevich is providing our community through Opportunity Returns. I know that, working together, we can turn obstacles into opportunities for these workers and their families," said Marty Vanags, executive director of the Economic Development Council of the Bloomington-Normal Area.

"This shows Governor Blagojevich does care about our members and their families. His immediate response is a crucial step in helping create more good jobs for Bloomington-Normal and the entire region," said Ralph Timan, United Auto Workers Local 2488 president.

A wide variety of other local stakeholders will be participating in this process, including the town of Normal, the city of Bloomington, Economic Development Council of the Bloomington-Normal Area, McLean County Chamber of Commerce, United Auto Workers Local 2488, McLean County AFL-CIO, Illinois State University and Heartland Community College.

"Governor Blagojevich understands that a more comprehensive response is vital in helping us rebound from this very unfortunate situation. He also understands that our region needs to come together and decide how to best move forward. We will get to work immediately on devising the best options for the workers and their families during this difficult time," said Gary Cicciu, the career link vice president for the United Workforce Development Board.


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The re-employment initiative in Normal could potentially be modeled after the Galesburg Transition Training Center, a family-focused approach that Gov. Blagojevich announced in January, after the Maytag Corporation decided it was closing its Galesburg facility. Additional unique services that the Galesburg center is designed to deliver include family transition assessment and planning, tutoring for adults and youth, spousal training, referral services, health and medical services, transportation services, center website, outreach services, elder services, and family and youth activities. While the Galesburg center has provided a successful blueprint for helping workers find new jobs, the choice of whether or not to follow this design lies with the community of Normal.

The re-employment initiative will also complement the governor's Critical Skills Shortage Initiative, a program designed to arm workers with new skills and prepare them to fill jobs in industries facing critical shortages in skilled labor. A group of local stakeholders is already using an earlier $150,000 Opportunity Returns planning grant to identify industry sectors, and specific occupations within those sectors, where there are current or projected shortages of skilled workers. Once these industries and occupations have been selected, the group will work to determine the root causes of these skill shortages and then develop regional solutions to address them. The planning group includes the local work force investment boards led by the private sector, as well as area employers, economic development professionals, educators and service providers. The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is administering the Critical Skills Shortage Initiative and will competitively award additional funds to help bridge the gap in training services available to fill these occupations.

"The critical partnerships Governor Blagojevich has forged ensure that a highly specialized collection of resources will continually be at work for the Mitsubishi workers and their families, but how those resources will be shaped and delivered is a decision that should be made by the community. This regional economy and its work force hold a great many strengths. Our steadfast goal is to parlay those strengths into new jobs for individuals and renewed vitality for the community of Normal and the entire North Central region," said Jack Lavin, director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

The governor's 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.

[News release from the governor's office]


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