$9.62 million worker 'Good Jobs' grant celebrated at FMWF Chamber event. Next up? Job training
The grant will be used to train about 900 workers for jobs in the precision agriculture, high-tech manufacturing, and cybersecurity and internet technology industries.
MOORHEAD — It was time to fire up the troops at the Armory Event Center on Wednesday, Aug. 24.
The Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce brought together more than 200 business, education and community leaders, and state and national dignitaries, to celebrate the Chamber Foundation winning a $9.62 million federal Good Jobs Challenge Grant.
The grant will be used to train workers for jobs in the region’s precision agriculture, high-tech manufacturing and cybersecurity and internet technology industries.
“It just demonstrates the diverse collaboration that we have,” Chamber CEO and President Shannon Full said. “A true celebration. This took the hard work of many, many people.”
The grant, first announced Aug. 3 , was one of 32 issued out of more than 500 applications from around the nation. The U.S. Economic Development Administration grant will help fund the Ignite Initiative Regional Workforce Training System. It is the only Good Jobs grant issued for North Dakota or Minnesota, Full said.
A shortfall of trained workers is hurting the region’s economic growth, she said.
“We know there is not enough talent” and it is “the greatest thing hindering our economy at this time,” Full said.
Full said the federal grant “will directly impact the lives of over 900 workers.”
Among the groups the grant is meant to help are women, veterans, New Americans, people of color, young adults, and people in the criminal justice system. Some of the money will be used to pay for child care and transportation as workers go through training.
The aim is to get people into jobs with good wages and benefits and create opportunities for advancement, said Jenna Mueller, executive director of the Chamber Foundation.
“It will have an estimated annual economic impact of $59.5 million in salaries alone,” Mueller said.
Partners in the initiative include the North Dakota State College of Science, Grand Farm Research and Education Initiative, Emerging Prairie, University of Mary, and Workbay, Mueller said.
“I cannot wait to see what you accomplish” with this opportunity, Sen. Tina Smith , D-Minn., told the crowd.
Smith said creating opportunities for people to join the workforce “is so essential.”
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said “today is a day of gratitude … and a day of celebration.”
Burgum said there are 30,000 jobs available in North Dakota, and that state is tied with South Dakota as having the nation's sixth lowest unemployment rate at 2.3%. Minnesota has the nation's lowest unemployment rate at 1.8%.
“If you took every college graduate in North Dakota, every high school graduate, and said, ‘Hey, go find a job,’ we’d still have jobs open," Burgum said.
Providing assistance to areas of higher unemployment, such as the region’s tribal reservations, or helping people with addiction issues and making sure those who have been incarcerated can get a job, help people succeed. Child care is also a huge barrier for some people to find work, he said.
“Workforce is the No. 1 issue in our state that we have to address,” Burgum said. “It’s multidimensional. It’s not about creating more jobs. It’s about solving some of these other” connected problems.
“This award is great news for Minnesota and the region,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said in a letter read by outreach director Chuck Ackman. “Workforce development is always a smart investment.”
Rod Flanigan, president of NDSCS, said the school “is well-positioned” to play a part in the initiative.
Flanagan said enrollment and dorm occupancy is up and the agriculture program alone has doubled in size in the last two years.
“We need all of you to help drive enrollment to our campuses,” Flanigan said. “Help us get students.”
Rachel Brash, executive director of the University of Mary Online, said the grant “is going to provide opportunities for people to thrive … and that is what is critical.”
Mike Arntson, plant manager for Cardinal IG in Fargo, said his company has seen “unprecedented demand" for its products and services and needs more trained workers.
Cardinal IG has “400 of those good jobs, and we have 368 teammates, so you can see the deficit there," Arntson said.
Dissolving barriers to getting job training to enter the work world is key to easing the workforce crunch, he said.
“As industry leaders, it’s up to us to support this initiative by getting involved to ensure our businesses and education partners are aligned” in regard to students’ needs, he said. “If we are indeed a posse, let's ride!”