News Releases

5 Pacific Mountain Counties Win $5 Million to Transform the Regional Economy and Build a Skilled, Innovative Workforce

Jun 20 2007

Lewis, Thurston, Mason, Grays Harbor and Pacific counties win federal recognition and funding to better meet the education and training needs of workers and employers in the region

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) congratulated a group of community leaders from five Washington counties on being selected by the U.S. Department of Labor to receive $5 million in federal grants over the next three years.

The funding will help the Pacific Mountain Workforce Consortium, which includes Lewis, Thurston, Mason, Grays Harbor and Pacific counties, improve education and training for workers and employers in the region.  The region includes 7,000 square miles and was selected on a competitive basis by the Labor Department because it showed great promise for successfully repositioning its economy.  Senator Murray wrote a letter of the support to the Department of Labor on behalf of the Pacific Mountain application.

"For years, regional leaders have been working together to grow and diversify the local economy.  Today, our government is recognizing their efforts and rewarding them with the tools to dramatically expand their progress," Murray said. "It's going to help workers get the training they need, help local employers become stronger, and lay the groundwork for long-term economic development."

Michael H. Kennedy, Executive Director of the Pacific Mountain Workforce Consortium, said the funding will make a difference.

"This grant will be a catalyst for our region to grow and sustain our economy to compete in the global market.  This partnership of business, labor, economic development, education, and workforce is committed to transforming the way we do business," Kennedy said.  "The Pacific Mountain Workforce Development Council wants to acknowledge Senator Patty Murray for her support and encouragement during the application process.  We are grateful for your leadership and dedication to our region."

Today, the Department of Labor named Washington's Pacific Mountain region as one of the 13 new Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development (WIRED) regions around the country.   The designation makes federal funding available and provides access to experts on economic development, worker training and education.  The federal program is designed to help regions transform their economies by bringing together industry, workers, education, economic development, and other stakeholders.  Today's award marks the first time that Washington state counties have been recognized by the WIRED program since it was founded in 2005.  

Murray is a national leader in the Senate in helping communities meet their local workforce development needs.  She chairs the Senate HELP Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety and is a longtime advocate for increased workforce development funding.  In 2003, at Murray's invitation, Michael H. Kennedy testified before the Senator's subcommittee.

The Pacific Mountain Alliance for Innovation (PMAI), which submitted the application for the five counties, was formed more than 15 months ago in recognition of the interdependence of Pacific Mountain economies.   The Alliance's strategic members include three college presidents, senior leadership from five economic development organizations, the Director of the local Workforce Development Council, key industry leaders from the manufacturing and energy sectors, the Director of the Center of Excellence for Energy Technology, the Director of New Market Skills Center (K-12), a Senior Research Associate from Washington State University’s Energy Program, Washington State Labor Council, Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council, and the Thurston-Lewis-Mason Central Labor Council. 

The grants will fund the work of PMAI as it carries out four strategic goals:

  1. Transform the region's talent pool into a flexible, technologically perceptive workforce that meets the skill requirements of the region’s businesses.
  2.  Build and promote innovation and entrepreneurships as a foundation of the regional economy, focusing on renewable and sustainable energy, manufacturing and construction processes.
  3. Create an Enterprise Network to integrate regional assets, resources and innovation to accelerate regional growth.
  4. Lead and leverage partner resources to establish and promote the regional identity.