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SPRINGFIELD — U.S. Rep. Richard Neal joined Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey, Massachusetts Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Lauren Jones, MassHire President and CEO David Cruise, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia, and Baystate Health President and CEO Dr. Mark Keroack in celebrating the selection of MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board (MHHCWB) as a finalist for the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Distressed Area Recompete Pilot Program.

Funded through the CHIPS and Science Act, the Recompete Program will invest in economically distressed communities to promote job growth, targeting areas where the prime-age (25 to 54 years) employment is significantly below the national average. Authorized for up to $1 billion in the CHIPS and Science Act, the Recompete Program received $200 million in initial appropriations for the 2023 competition. Through local investments, the Recompete Program will help support closing the employment gap by connecting historically marginalized communities with good-paying jobs.

“The CHIPS Act is about bolstering economic activity through investments that will empower American innovators, stimulate job growth, and achieve economic security for future generations. With opportunities like the Recompete Program, that is precisely what the Pioneer Valley will see in the years to come,” Neal said. “I applaud MassHire, whose efforts in spearheading the Springfield-Holyoke Recompete Plan were critical in navigating the EDA’s rigorous application process. By collaborating with local partners, both public and private, MassHire’s targeted approach would help thousands of local residents access economic opportunities otherwise not afforded to them.”

Healey added that “this program will boost our efforts to ensure that all workers can access the training and workforce-development opportunities they need to succeed in today’s economy.”

Selected from more than 200 applications, MHHCWB was one of just 22 applications to be named a finalist for Recompete Plan approval. Through cross-sector collaboration, MHHCWB’s $20 million proposal would spur job growth and retention in the gateway cities of Springfield and Holyoke, putting individuals on career pathways with living wages.

Funding from the Recompete Program would support four holistic investments that address employment barriers through a shared services hub, workforce development and training, and the expansion of employer commitments to worker-friendly jobs. The formation of a workforce training system would establish a structure in which schools, training institutions, and employers mutually equip, commit to, and credential one another, creating an ecosystem in which partners are using the same approaches, systems, and practices that most effectively recruit, promote, and retain historically excluded prime-aged adults.

“Creating cross-sector collaboration in key census tracts in Springfield and Holyoke that increase employment and retention of prime-aged individuals and put them on career pathways with living wages is critical to accelerating job creation, driving economic development and industry competitiveness, strengthening families, and ensuring resilient communities,” Cruise said.

As a Recompete Program finalist, MHHCWB will now move to phase 2 of the program and receive a $500,000 Strategy Development Grant to refine its Phase 2 application. This funding will be accessed in early 2024 and can be used to increase regional economic-development capacity by hiring experts, building and strengthening partnerships, conducting studies, and piloting strategies. In addition, EDA will provide individualized feedback and technical assistance to each of the Strategy Development Grant awardees.

“Baystate Health is proud to partner with the MassHire Hampden County Workforce Board on the Springfield-Holyoke Recompete Project, and we are thrilled the project is among the 22 finalists for funding,” Keroack said. “As the largest healthcare provider in Western Massachusetts, we are not only committed to providing high-quality healthcare, but we are also dedicated to being changemakers in our communities. This funding will help our workforce-pipeline programs which were designed to change lives for those who may not have job training and workforce-development opportunities.”