Labor Dept. Announces $200M in Grants for New Jobs

The Labor Department will provide $195 million to 13 regions of the country for economic development opportunities to lure businesses and create new jobs.

Labor Secretary Elaine Chao announced the grants Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press.

Each of the 13 selected regions will receive $15 million over a three-year period to create economic development plans to bring this about, Chao said.

The selected regions are spread throughout the country and include areas in California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Montana and New York.

"These grants will help local communities to develop new industries and train workers for these opportunities," Chao said. "This is especially important for dislocated workers and for communities that need to diversify their economic base. ...We are encouraging communities to come together ... to chart a pathway to future economic development."

Chao said the department's initiative dovetails with President Bush's call for a more competitive work force in his State of the Union address Tuesday evening. These ideas come amid public anxiousness over the economy, jobs and competition from other countries, especially China and India.

Governors applied for a slice of the grant money. The 13 recipients were selected out of 97 eligible applications, department officials said. Chao said $195 million is one of the department's largest grant packages.

Chao didn't have an estimate as to how many jobs might be generated through the initiative, although the department will keep tabs on what the regions are doing.

"We are not dictating the vision," Chao said. "It is their vision of where they want to go and what the community would look like in future years."