$80M economic development plan unveiled

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo was in Springfield Thursday morning, to talk about a new $80 million piece of legislation that invests in several programs aimed at economic development.

DeLeo and Rep. Joe Wagner (D-Chicopee) have unveiled the new bill, which targets economic development across the state from Boston to the Berkshires, with a focus on jobs.

“Quite frankly, when I come to Springfield or west, the unemployment figures here are a lot different in terms of people being employed,” the Winthrop Democrat said. “And we need to do something about it.”

DeLeo wants to address regional development and invest in industries important to western Mass. Wagner says the bill aims to support the manufacturing and technologies sectors, and create the workers that the modern employer is looking for.

“Today there’s a need and a skills gap, and an employment gap between needs of employers and employees with appropriate skill sets,” Wagner said.

There is a goal to train 4,000 workers in four years by investing $15 million toward grants to vocational-technical schools and community colleges.

S.T.C.C student Joy Danita Allen has gone back to school to and is now pre-med; looking to change her career path. She says supporting vocational training is money well spent.

“Making it possible for non-traditional students to return back to school to change careers would be excellent,” Allen said.

Wagner says the bill will cost around $80 million, and will be paid for by money left over in the 2014 budget.

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