Northeast Oklahoma Regional Alliance recently announced that it is one of five communities joining the Inclusive Development Network, a new initiative designed to advance inclusive workforce development within the selected regions through a focus on reaching underserved populations.

Selected from more than 35 applications for the Network's first cohort of communities were: Five counties in Northeast Oklahoma; Cleveland, Ohio; Corpus Christi, Texas; Spokane, Washington; and Pensacola, Florida.

NORA will bring together partners from Cherokee, Mayes, Muskogee, Rogers and Wagoner Counties to develop strategies around workforce inclusiveness.

"Having a strong plan for developing a pipeline of employees in our region will strengthen our regional economy," said NORA Executive Director Lisa Smith.

An initiative of the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, the Inclusive Development Network will work to identify and implement strategies that reduce equity gaps in local workforce development. Participating communities were selected based on their geography and size, as well as their existing and proposed reach with underserved populations.

Through a specialized planning process facilitated by CAEL, the leadership teams from the selected communities will hone inclusive workforce development strategies to create education, job and career opportunities for all residents.

NORA will assemble a leadership team that includes representatives from local institutions, including: Cherokee Nation Commerce Department, Cherokee Nation Career Services, Claremore Industrial and Economic Development Authority, Eastern Workforce Board, Indian Capital Technology Center, MidAmerica Industrial Park, Northeast Technology Center, Northeast Workforce Board, Northeastern State University, Port of Muskogee Business and Economic Development Office, Rogers State University, Tahlequah Industrial Authority and Wagoner County Economic Development Authority.

"Although our economy is growing, segments of our communities are still struggling with poverty, wage stagnation and underemployment. In local economic development, a focus on working adults and inclusivity can help ensure that every member of the community has the opportunity to thrive," said CAEL President Marie A. Cini.

Backed by grants from ECMC Foundation and JPMorgan Chase & Co., the Inclusive Development Network will be supported by partnerships with national experts, including International Economic Development Council, Burning Glass Technologies, Avalanche Consulting Inc. and Quest Site Solutions.

"This work is about promoting economic inclusion for working adults at the local level," said ECMC Foundation President Peter J. Taylor. "Together, these leaders will blaze a new trail to a more equitable and prosperous future for working adults, families and communities."

To learn more about the IDN, visit

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