Located in Anniston, Alabama, the Anniston Army Depot (the Depot) is one of a small number of US Army installations charged with neutralizing or destroying the country’s chemical weapons stockpiles, but this process was set to end in 2011. In addition to the anticipated job losses from the conclusion of the chemical weapons incineration program—totaling nearly 1,200 workers—the Depot was also affected by cuts in defense spending and the conclusion of military actions in Iraq.
The East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission (EARPDC), together with the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce, applied for and received a grant from the US Department of Defense’s Office of Economic Adjustment to help retain workers in the region. As part of the grant, the EARPDC and the Chamber engaged TIP Strategies to document the skill sets of the affected workers and prepare a regional strategy to connect those skills with the needs of current and future employers. The labor shed affected by the Depot losses was defined as a six-county region centered on Calhoun County. Key elements of the project included compiling regional workforce assets, providing assistance to industry recruitment efforts, and helping the Chamber set up a job-matching system as part of its Operation 1st RATE (Ready Able Trained Employees) initiative. During Operation 1st RATE’s first five years, the initiative placed more than 1,000 of the affected workers with local employers.