BEMIDJI -- The state of Minnesota recently provided $300,000 to local entities in a round of grants to bolster the region's workforce.

On Tuesday, the Department of Labor and Industry announced it had awarded more than $2.7 million in state grants to fund training for current and new employees across the state. The grants allow trainees to earn paychecks while also training to help companies meet their needs.

Regionally, Greater Bemidji Economic Development and Red Lake Comprehensive Health Services each received $90,000. Sanford Health Network, meanwhile, with locations in Bemidji and Worthington, was awarded $120,000.

The dollars going to Greater Bemidji will be used for the Minnesota Innovation Institute, or MI2, program according to the organization's executive director Dave Hengel. Launched in 2013, the MI2 was created through a partnership between Greater Bemidji, BSU and Northwest Technical College.

The MI2 works with three types of workers, incumbent employees who are sent for training by companies, individuals who are looking to make a career transition or life change, and entry-level young adults.

"This grant will allow us to train 65 additional northern Minnesota manufacturing employees," Hengel said. "Companies in our area that are involved are Potlatch, Norbord, Wells Technology, Bemidji Steel Co., and Marvin Windows. Each will have a certain number of employees involved."

According to a release from the state department, manufacturing, agriculture, health care services and information technology companies are eligible to receive the grants.

"The state grant is a huge commitment to help create another pipeline of talent to our manufacturing companies," Hengel said. "Workforce shortages are a challenge. Even with COVID-19, the biggest issue for many of our manufacturers is having the workforce they need to succeed. Our ability to help build in the skills within the existing community is good for the employers and employees."