BEMIDJI -- One of Bemidji's newer companies has been recognized for its inclusive hiring practices.

According to a release from the Regional Workforce Alliance of Northwest Minnesota, Delta Dental of Minnesota was given an inclusive workforce employer designation. The RWA gives the designation to companies with a commitment to, and development of, an inclusive and equitable culture within their business and the region.

The designation was created to recognize and promote inclusive employers, to reduce regional disparities and bring awareness to the value and methods of increasing workforce diversity. In Delta Dental's case, the designation was for the fourth quarter of 2020.

"It's consistent across both our headquarters in the cities and in Bemidji," said Joe Lally, Delta Dental vice president of government relations. "We've always been committed to diversity and inclusion."

Lally said this was ramped up more about 16 months ago, when Delta Dental started a social change council.

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"It was talking about how we go about recruiting, as well as providing opportunities, professional development and training," Lally said. "Also, how we translate that from internal work, such as hiring, to our external work in the community.

"In terms of recruiting, we look to expand opportunities for folks so that they're aware we're hiring, and we did recruitment within the Indigenous community. In Bemidji, we had to hire and train, in a relatively short time frame, a big team."

Delta Dental opened a 38,000 square-foot technology and information center in September 2019. Based in Minneapolis, Delta Dental of Minnesota is the largest regional provider of dental benefits to small businesses and larger companies alike. In Bemidji, Delta Dental employs about 150 people.

Other employers receiving the designation were Central Lakes College and Essentia Health.