Decatur, Illinois’ Recompete Plan led by Richland Community College Named a Finalist in Biden-Harris Administration’s Distressed Area Recompete Pilot Program

Contact: Julie Melton, AVP, Institutional Advancement
Phone: (217) 875-7211, ext. 6209; 217-855-7805
Email: jmelton@richland.edu

December 20, 2023

Decatur, Illinois’ Recompete Plan led by Richland Community College Named a Finalist in Biden-Harris Administration’s Distressed Area Recompete Pilot Program

Decatur, IL – The Decatur, Illinois’ Recompete Plan, led by Richland Community College, has been selected as one of twenty-two (out of more than 500) Phase 1 finalists in the Biden-Harris Administration’s Distressed Area Recompete Pilot Program. This announcement comes on the heels of the prestigious designation of the iFAB Tech Hub between Macon, Piatt, and Champaign counties as one of the 31 inaugural Tech Hubs nationwide, showcasing potential for rapid growth in key technology sectors, aiming to generate employment opportunities and enhance U.S. economic and national security.

This groundbreaking Recompete plan seeks an approximate investment of $20-$50 million to address critical inhibitors contributing to unemployment among underserved populations in Decatur.

Focusing on scaling our proven EnRich training model, the proposal aims equip workers with the skills needed for job opportunities in the burgeoning electric vehicle and precision fermentation sectors.

The Decatur, Illinois’ Recompete Plan outlines a comprehensive three-pronged strategy:

  • Workforce Training: Targeted training programs to empower residents for well-paying manufacturing jobs in the evolving electric vehicle and precision fermentation industries.
  • Wraparound Supports: Recognizing the need for comprehensive assistance, the plan includes robust support systems to address barriers hindering workforce participation, ensuring individuals have the necessary resources for success.
  • Strengthening Manufacturing Pathways for High School Seniors: Fortify educational pathways, particularly for high school seniors, creating opportunities for them to enter the manufacturing workforce.

“Richland has been committed to changing lives and improving the economic vitality of our communities through rigorous and effective workforce training for many years,” said Dr. Cristobal “Cris” Valdez, President of Richland Community College. “We are elated to be named finalists and are confident that, if chosen, we will continue to provide a prepared trained workforce through our EnRich Program by moving adults out of unemployment and out of poverty into productive careers that will strengthen our community, bolster the local economy, and most important, change individuals’ lives for the better.”

The potential impact of this initiative extends beyond the college, emphasizing community-wide coordination and collaboration between Richland Community College, Economic Development Corporation of Decatur-Macon County, Decatur Public Schools and the United Way of Decatur & Mid-Illinois. Nicole Bateman, President of the Economic Development Corporation of Decatur-Macon County, highlighted the significance of collective efforts: “We realize success by combining our strengths and forming deliberate, collaborative approaches to address our community’s challenges. An incredible amount of coordination between these four agencies was put forth for the first phase of this application process.”

Debbie Bogle, President of the United Way of Decatur and Mid Illinois, emphasized the need to create self-sufficiency in residents of Macon County and if chosen we will be able to make a significant impact in our community.

Underlining the transformative potential for local education and career pathways Ashley Grayned, Executive Director of Innovative Programs & Strategic Planning with Decatur Public Schools (DPS), emphasized the impact on local students: “Decatur Public Schools is ecstatic about the possibility of receiving this funding to connect our high school students to viable career opportunities in our community. DPS recognizes the need to be intentional about connecting our high school students to opportunities before High School graduation. This will increase the likelihood for students to become successful, thriving, productive citizens in our community, which has a direct impact on the prime age employment gap in our community.”

Approval of this plan would not be possible without the support of Governor Pritzker, Innovate Illinois, and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Their commitment highlights their dedication to fostering innovation and economic growth in not only the State of Illinois, but our community.

The proposal will now advance to Phase 2, where detailed implementation projects will be considered for funding. The Biden-Harris Administration, through the Economic Development Administration, remains steadfast in its commitment to ensuring that no community is left behind in the nation’s economic growth and recovery. Richland Community College stands ready to contribute to this vision, anticipating the opportunity to make a substantial impact on the lives of Decatur residents.

About Richland Community College
Richland Community College has proudly and successfully served the citizens of district 537 through a strong mix of workforce, technical and transfer education for the past 50 years. Our dedicated staff provides diverse and meaningful support services to make every student’s experience both personal and rewarding. (www.richland.edu)