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2004 TOP Grant Recipients
Provide Economic Opportunity
to Underserved Areas and
Communities Experiencing Economic Downturns

Almost half of the 2004 grant recipients are experimenting with advanced telecommunications and information technologies to expand economic opportunities in communities across the Nation. Seeking to expand markets, create new entrepreneurial ventures, connect buyers and suppliers, train paraprofessionals, and transition communities from agricultural to mixed economies, many of this year's grantees are forging new paths using leading-edge technologies to boost economic development.

  • Easter Seals in Chicago, Illinois, is developing new web-authoring technology to enable people with disabilities to be employed as web content publishers in Peoria, Illinois; Indianapolis, Indiana; Raleigh, North Carolina; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Miami, Florida. With only one in three disabled working-age Americans having a job, the Web Author Accessibility Project will overcome employment barriers, providing marketable skills through internships and job placements for people with disabilities that limit their use of a mouse.
  • The Community Development and Preservation Corporation, a neighborhood revitalization program in northeast Washington, DC, is training low-income residents of an apartment complex for jobs as health-care technicians. In addition, CDPC is establishing an onsite health clinic to assess, treat, and manage residents' health-related issues. Clinical services will be enhanced by the development of an "independent living toolkit," including the use of wearable sensors and assistive technologies to promote self-sufficiency among elderly residents.
  • Greene County, North Carolina, is working with tobacco farmers to migrate to non-tobacco-based enterprises through online job training and professional development, supported by a new wireless canopy. Partnering with small business centers, Greene County will spearhead enterprise development in a county in which 15 percent of the total population lost their jobs between 1998 and 2002 due mainly to the decline of the regional tobacco industry.
  • Lincoln Action Program in Lincoln, Nebraska, is advancing access to health care services and public information among non-English speakers by fostering new interpreter-translator business development among bilingual, technologically skilled job seekers. Working with the Nebraska Microenterprise Partnership Fund, the grantee will assist qualified entrepreneurs start new businesses which will capitalize on a broader base of potential customers using broadband video relay technologies.

Grantees who are focusing on workforce development and in sharpening the digital literacy skills of youth and young adults include:

  • The Center for Urban Missions in Birmingham, Alabama, offers career development opportunities to expand the pipeline into the diverse service-oriented economy of greater Birmingham, home to 257 affiliates of Fortune 500 companies. Focused on providing neighborhood-based remediation and technology certification, the faith-based organization and its partners will develop and strengthen educational and workforce resources for over 3,000 families in and around Jefferson County.
  • The National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education in Silver Spring, Maryland, is fostering academic preparation and career development among select high school students within several miles of two historically Black colleges in Virginia and Tennessee. Through face-to-face and online mentoring and tutoring with faith-based and business partners, NAFEO and its partners will connect young people with caring adults and individualized lesson plans using laptop computers linked to a wireless canopy surrounding the two campuses.

Other innovative economic development projects include:

  • The Regents of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has embarked on Minnesota 3-D, an Internet-accessible mapping application for community development corporations and employment trainers to encourage center-city job creation. Given recent job growth in the Twin Cities' inner ring is slow compared to growth across the suburbs, Minnesota 3-D gives decision makers the tools to respond to this challenge by linking jobs, transportation, and affordable housing data into an easy-to-use GIS application for use by community economic development entities.
  • DX-CEEDS, Inc. in Newark, Delaware, is broadening access to local contract opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses throughout the state, powered by a unique B-2-B exchange. Comprising a business exchange relational database, an employment services component, wireless messaging capability, and business events offerings, DX-CEEDS aims to streamline and diversity procurement, an economic development model that lowers suppliers' costs and saves buyers' time.

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