Innovate Illinois Supports Richland Community College’s Bid for Recompete Phase 2 Funding

DECATUR — Today, Innovate Illinois announced its support for Richland Community College’s (Richland) application for the Recompete Pilot Program Phase 2, submitted to the Economic Development Administration (EDA). This initiative seeks a transformative $47 million grant aimed at fortifying workforce development and economic resilience in Decatur. Richland’s proposed project, Workforce Opportunities for Resilient Communities (WORC), targets pivotal economic and workforce development through direct intervention in education, training and job preparation, particularly within Decatur’s urban core which has faced historical employment challenges.

“As chair of Innovate Illinois, I am deeply committed to uplifting our communities through strategic investments in innovation and workforce development,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “The WORC project at Richland Community College is a stellar example of how targeted funding can transform not just local economies, but also significantly enhance lives of by providing the tools and opportunities necessary for a prosperous future.”

Richland is the only community college nationwide to apply for this phase, highlighting its pivotal role in addressing local and regional economic challenges. The WORC initiative plans to significantly decrease the prime age employment gap, particularly among historically underserved Black populations in Decatur’s urban core, through targeted training in emerging sectors like electric vehicle manufacturing and precision fermentation.

This application leverages one of the state’s recent designations as an EDA Tech Hub, enhancing the project’s impact through synergies with state-led technology initiatives such as the Illinois Fermentation and Agriculture Bioprocessing (iFAB) Tech Hub. The iFAB Tech Hub alone anticipates the creation of thousands of jobs, significantly enriching the state’s technology infrastructure and workforce capacity. WORC and the iFAB Tech Hub represent monumental wins for Decatur and the broader Illinois area, signaling a new era of economic prosperity and technological leadership.

“These initiatives are not just about economic development—they are about reshaping our community’s future,” said Nicole Bateman, President of the Economic Development Corporation of Decatur-Macon County. “By harnessing local innovations and fostering a skilled workforce, we are setting a strong foundation for sustained, equitable growth in Decatur and beyond.”

“At Richland, we are dedicated to not just educating, but empowering our community,” said Dr. Cristobal Valdez, President of Richland. “Through WORC, we aim to transform the economic landscape of Decatur by providing sustainable and meaningful employment opportunities, directly addressing the employment disparities that have long affected our region.”

“WORC is set to be a cornerstone in revitalizing our community by equipping our residents with the skills needed for the jobs of tomorrow,” said Rev. Courtney Carson, Vice President of External Affairs and EnRich. “This is about creating lasting economic resilience through education and opportunity.”

“This comprehensive approach goes beyond job creation—it builds a foundation for sustained economic health and stability in our communities,” said Debbie Bogle, President of the United Way of Decatur & Mid-Illinois.

“Preparing our youth for successful careers is smart strategy for building strong communities, creating wealth and generational change,” said Ashley Grayned, Executive Director of Innovative Programs and Strategic Planning for Decatur Public Schools.   

“Through strong local coordination and advocacy, Richland Community College has been selected as a finalist for significant funding through the federal Recompete grant program,” said Congresswoman Nikki Budzinski. “I’m proud to support this exciting economic development opportunity that can help our community continue to lead in 21st century technology and innovation. I look forward to continuing to advocate for Decatur to receive this exciting workforce development opportunity.”

Innovate Illinois continues to work closely with federal and state partners to secure critical funding that supports key technologies, driving forward the state’s economic growth and technological advancements. The WORC project exemplifies the impactful initiatives that Innovate Illinois champions to foster a vibrant, inclusive, and prosperous tech ecosystem across the state.

About Innovate Illinois

Innovate Illinois is a public-private coalition that was formed to drive the coordinated and robust effort in securing unprecedented levels of federal funding made available by landmark legislation including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act. Securing more federal funding for key technologies will propel the state to attract more companies and investors to grow Illinois’ vibrant tech ecosystem.

 

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