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Blackburn road widening will revive medipark scheme and bring jobs

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A MAJOR road-widening scheme to cut traffic jams into Blackburn is set to create nearly 4,000 jobs including resurrecting plans for a hi-tech medical park next to the town’s hospital.

The revival of the scheme was revealed as approval for the financing of the £11.5million upgrade of Haslingden Road came a step closer.

On Thursday the Transport for Lancashire Committee of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership agreed to recommend the final approval of the LEP’s £9m contribution to widening the main traffic artery between Blackburn town centre and M65 Junction 5 and the Grane Road to its next board meeting on February 10.

Documents submitted with the application revealed that doubling the busiest stretch of A6177 to two lanes each way, improving the roundabouts serving Royal Blackburn Hospital and Shadsworth Road and building a new highway linking Blackamoor Road with Roman Road should open up land to create 3,950 jobs.

It will also allow the building of 1,000 new homes and create 73,290 square metres of industrial space, much of it on empty land in the Blackamoor area.

The documents also reveal that Blackburn with Darwen Council has resurrected its plan to develop 9.3 acres of land between Shadsworth Road and Haslingden Road next to the Royal Blackburn Hospital as a hi-tech medical and science park.

The original £25m Medi-Knowledge Park scheme was abandoned in April 2014.

The new plan, scheduled for completion in 2025, would create 1,542 jobs.

Preparations for the road widening has already started with the main works set to start in April after the main LEP board approval and take 12 months.

Cllr Phil Riley, borough development boss, said “We are very pleased the committee approved our application for LEP funding and look forward to its final approval.

“It opens up land for housing and thousands of new jobs by securing proper highways access,” Cllr Riley said.

“It has also allowed us to bring back the medipark plan. We have ensured the land for this scheme has not been compromised.”

Cllr John Slater, leader of the council Conservative group, said: “I am glad that this important road improvement has passed its next stage.

“I am particularly pleased to see the medipark revived and will speak to Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry to see if the government can help fund it,” he added.

Cllr Slater added: “I remain concerned about the management of traffic during the roadworks and will be keeping a close eye on the council’s plans for this.”

A development site at Blackamoor Road is expected to create 1,044 jobs, two parcels of land at Waterside 729, and the redevelopment of the former Blakewater College 542.

Blackburn with Darwen Council will contribute £2.5m to the project.

The existing junction between Blackamoor Road and Roman Road will be closed.



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Florence, Northern Elite cancel football games | News, Sports, Jobs

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Florence will forfeit its varsity football game Friday at Three Lakes, due to a lack of players, while Northern Elite has canceled the remaining two games of its varsity football season.

“We examined several angles to try and keep it going, but eventually came to the decision that it was no longer feasible,” said Scott Trevillian, Niagara principal/athletic director.

The Dickinson-Iron District Health Department plans to meet Thursday morning with area athletic directors for a recommendation on this weekend’s MHSAA playoff football games. There has been no in-person instruction or athletic activities at Dickinson County schools since Oct. 17, due to the coronavirus.

If played, Norway’s contest against West Iron will be moved to 1 p.m. Saturday in Iron River. It had previously been set for Friday night.

Other area games on the calendar for Saturday include Rogers City at Iron Mountain, at noon, and Ogemaw Heights at Kingsford, 2 p.m.

Scheduled eight-player games on Saturday are Engadine at North Central, noon, and Lake Linden-Hubbell at Forest Park, noon.

Northern Elite had been scheduled to host Coleman on Friday night and travel to Oconto Falls on Nov. 6.

Florence has a scheduled game Nov. 7 against Siren, Wis., in Rhinelander.

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Victorino upbeat about Lanai’s COVID-19 status | News, Sports, Jobs

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Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino is confident that the COVID-19 outbreak on Lanai is under control after the issuing of a stay-at-home order Tuesday and encouraging results from recent surge testing.

After the virus outbreak last week, medical providers conducted nearly 1,000 tests Saturday, where six new coronavirus cases were discovered. Another three positive cases were added to the state Department of Health count for a total of nine Tuesday, but Victorino said that those three individuals were tested before the surge testing program.

All nine cases were included in Lanai’s total count, which was 87 as of Tuesday — the fourth highest island by cases in the state behind Oahu, Hawaii island and Maui.

“We’re in fairly good shape overall. However, I want the Lanaians to know that this lockdown is so important,” Victorino said Tuesday night during a news conference. “I’m very confident with keeping it under control. I think the community realizes the importance of working together and having respect for each other.”

The stay-at-home order will remain in place until Nov. 11. It requires people to only leave their home or place of lodging for essential activities, services or business. All travel to and from Lanai is restricted to essential work or medical purposes. All other travelers must quarantine for 14 days.

Essential workers to Lanai may request limited quarantine through the county.

Managing Director Sandy Baz said that these protocols will be evaluated on a daily basis.

So far, a total of 2,747 COVID-19 tests have been administered on Lanai — 87 percent of the resident population. The rate of positive cases was 3.13 percent. The seven-day average rolling rate was 4.66 percent.

“We want to give a big mahalo to all our health care workers, first responders and many others, who helped to provide this large scale testing event for our Lanai community,” Baz said.

Large social gatherings likely contributed to the outbreak, which shows “just how quickly” the virus can spread if mask wearing and social distancing protocols are not met, he added.

The Hawaii National Guard and the state Department of Health officials have been going “house to house” to ensure that families are taken care of by educating various groups and offering a native language translator.

“We are working very closely with the Lanai health providers as well as others to make sure that this cluster of our Polynesian community is managed and helped in every way possible,” Victorino said.

There will be testing available from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at the Lana’i Community Hospital.

Mass testing is set for 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday behind the Pulama Lana’i administrative building. Appointments are encouraged by calling Lanai’s Straub Medical Center at (808) 565-6423 or the Lanai Community Health Center at (808) 565-6919.

In other developments:

• Young Brothers said its barge service to Lanai will continue on schedule. The barge arrives Wednesdays at Kaumalapau Harbor from Honolulu and departs the same day back to Honolulu.

• Roselani Place, an assisted living facility on Maui, reported two possible cases from its recent round of testing Monday. The cases are pending further investigation by the Maui District Health Office, a news release said. Not counting the two cases, there have been 71 cases at the Kahului facility — 32 staff and 39 residents.

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.

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Indonesia’s Pandemic Response: A Law to Create Millions of Jobs | Voice of America

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TAIPEI, TAIWAN – A landmark law passed this month in Indonesia will open the populous, impoverished country to labor-intensive industry like many of its Southeast Asian neighbors despite a hit to worker rights, people on the ground say. 

The 905-page Omnibus Bill on Job Creation bill will give millions of young people chances to work, including in formal jobs that can be hard to find because older Indonesian laws discouraged foreign investors from setting up factories, analysts believe. 

Indonesians are struggling to earn income during an unrelenting COVID-19 outbreak that prompted shutdowns from April. The nation with nearly 400,000 infections reported a sharp drop in retail sales from April through August and a fall in exports over the three months ending in September.   

“With this new law, it is expected that the investment would come not only to the Indonesian economy, but also come to the labor-intensive part, and by getting more investment in that area it is expected that more jobs will be created, and those jobs are more of the quality jobs, not only informal jobs,” said Yose Rizal Damuri, economics department head with the Center for Strategic and International Studies research organization in Jakarta.   

Indonesia’s government and House of Representatives passed the bill ahead of schedule on October 5, the Jakarta Post reported. The bill aims to cut bureaucracy and make it easier for investors to create jobs, said Richard Borsuk, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies adjunct senior fellow in Singapore.

Protest against the government’s proposed labor reforms in Sukabumi, West Java, Oct. 7, 2020.

President Joko Widodo’s government sees this bill as part of his “legacy” to stimulate the 270 million-person country’s economy, Rizal said. Minerals, oil and farming make up much of Indonesia’s $1 trillion-plus GDP today. “Labor-intensive” industry players find Indonesia too expensive now, Rizal said, explaining why that sub-sector makes up just 2% of the country’s total investment. 

Foreign manufacturers of garments, shoes and textiles normally pick other low-cost Southeast Asian countries, such as Vietnam, over the past decade because of stiff pro-labor laws, economists say. Foreign investment eventually raises the living standards, as witnessed in China and eventually Vietnam

“It’s probably something that will be a long-term benefit, if this does go through,” said Rajiv Biswas, senior regional economist with IHS Markit, a London-based analysis firm. 

“It creates a better environment for foreign multinationals to hire, because from the perspective of foreign multinationals, it’s very restrictive labor laws there,” Biswas said. “They’re worried about hiring because it’s very hard to reduce the workforce later on.”   

Foreign investors will consider the law a “step in the right” direction for making Indonesia friendlier, forecast Song Seng Wun, an economist in the private banking unit of Malaysian bank CIMB.

“This Omnibus Bill is part of something that Jokowi [was] looking to see how they can help sort of improve the investment landscape to make it a little bit more attractive in Indonesia, just to make sure Indonesia doesn’t get pushed down the investible list of countries,” Song said, using the Indonesian president’s nickname. 

But the law sparked staunch opposition. Some governors have asked Widodo to revoke the law and other people protested in the streets over three days, sometimes violently, Borsuk’s study says. 

The law effectively eliminates the power of labor unions, said Paramita Supamijoto, an international relations lecturer at Bina Nusantara University in greater Jakarta. 

The October bill would roll back legal support for fair wages, safe working conditions and excessive overtime, U.S.-headquartered human rights advocacy group Amnesty International said in a statement in August. It called the bill’s preparation process “opaque.”   

Severance pay for laid-off workers will also slip, Damuri said. 

For workers, the law means that “whatever you do, your life will be determined by your employers,” Supamijoto said.

But the law could stoke enough investment to stop people from migrating overseas in search of work, she said. “Under our current president’s administration, they prefer to invite the investors rather than sending workers abroad, so it’s better to invite you to come here to spend money, to invest your money, then to help us to build the infrastructure,” she said. 

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