Feb. 3, 2006--Business leaders from 13 regions across the nation learned on Wednesday that their communities will receive $15 million in Department of Labor economic development grants intended to promote innovation and prepare workers for high-technology jobs.

Each region was chosen from 100 applicants for having ideal public and private business partnerships, and will receive a total of $15 million over a three-year period.

The recipients will share a $195 million grant package from the Department of Labor called Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development, or WIRED, grants. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao informed leaders in each winning region on Wednesday on the heels of President Bush’s newly announced American Competitiveness Agenda.

One of the WIRED grant recipients, the Denver Metro Area, targeted five distinct industries in their application -- aerospace, bioscience, energy, finance and information technology -- in which they are hoping to attract jobs and better train workers. Among the other major metropolitan areas receiving grants were Los Angeles and San Diego Counties, Greensboro and Winston-Salem, N.C., and the greater Kansas City region.

Ledy Garcia-Eckstein, senior policy analyst at Denver Office of Workforce Development said that much of the grant money will go toward high-tech education. Garcia-Eckstein expects the job training efforts to target industries in need, and will include educational partnerships with local schools and universities.

“A lot of local businesses, particularly the aerospace industry, have had a hard time expanding because they can’t find qualified candidates, Garcia-Eckstein said.

Though currently well staffed, Digital Globe, a 340-employee satellite-imaging company based in Longmont, Colo., just outside Denver, views the WIRED grant as a boon to both local employees and small businesses.

“I expect the grants to not only increase technical ability of our workers in their areas, said Chuck Herring, director of communications for DigitalGlobe, “but to also greatly improve the overall performance of companies in the Denver area.

Other regions, like the Rochester, New York/Finger Lakes area, will be earmarking portions of their WIRED grants to boost entrepreneurship in burgeoning technology hotspots. Matthew Hurlbutt, executive director of RochesterWorks, which will lead the distribution of the grants in the area, said that the area, though highly skilled, is in a time of transition.

“The perception is that upstate New York is a little slow, Hurlbutt said. “I think this is the shot in the arm we needed to get from manufacturing-based economy to a knowledge based-economy.

The grants, Hurlbultt says, will likely go toward everything from education, particularly toward job training in industries that have a strong presence in the region -- such as optics and life sciences -- to providing start-up capital to entrepreneurs.

Christine Scheible, CEO and owner of the 10-employee Rochester’s Quantum Technology Associates, says the grants will be especially helpful to high-tech entrepreneurs -- and her own small business. She anticipates that her business, which engineers software for the optical and medical industries, will be able to capitalize on the expected influx of high-tech startups.

“The region is really taking an active interest in areas in which we want to specialize, Scheible says. “I think we’re really re-branding Rochester.

The regions receiving grants include Coastal Maine; Northeast Pennsylvania; Upstate New York; Piedmont Triad North Carolina; Central Michigan; the Florida Panhandle; Western Alabama and Eastern Mississippi; North Central Indiana; Greater Kansas City; Denver Metro Region; Central and Eastern Montana; and the California Coast.