Getting WIRED Part of Future

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The U.S. Department of Labor has allotted $195 million for 13 regions to be part of the WIRED Initiative, or Workforce Innovation for Regional Economic Development.

One area selected is east Mississippi and west Alabama. Thirty six counties in the twin states are in the region.

Officials say what makes this initiative so important is the partnership between the two states.

"What this is all about is erasing the state lines and joining together as one team, so together we can fight for our economic future," said Mike McGrevey, president of The Montgomery Institute, which oversees the grant.

Governors Bob Riley of Alabama and Haley Barbour of Mississippi have been working on forming this kind of partnership for a couple of years. Riley says that having both states on the same page will help develop the area.

"It's going to expand our ability. It's going to allow us to develop a new type of economy in west Alabama and east Mississippi," said Riley. "Governor Barbour and I both share the same vision."

Officials say what makes this region perfect for the grant is that both states share a common history and culture.

"The region has a lot in common. Common transportation systems. People that work back and forth across state lines. Families that are split between the two states," said Bill Crawford of the Mississippi Development Authority. "Really, other than the state line, there's not a lot of difference between the two areas."

Each of the 13 regions will receive $15 million over a three-year period.

"It's a great opportunity. We talk regional development, those of us that are in the economic development world, but now we're really starting to do something about it. I couldn't be more excited," said Nick Walters, director of USDA Rural Development in Mississippi.

The Wired Initiative is a part of President Bush's American Competitive Initiative.

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