BEMIDJI-The state of Minnesota is injecting close to $1 million into the Bemidji community to assist organizations in improving the area's workforce.
In late April, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development awarded 57 grants totaling $17.8 million across the state. The funding was provided by way of the state's Pathways to Prosperity Program.
Locally, Greater Bemidji Economic Development received $550,000 and the Northwest Indian Community Development Center was awarded $418,000. According to a DEED press release, the funding is for programs designed to provide workforce development and training opportunities to adults in Minnesota experiencing barriers to employment.
"The funds we got from DEED are to train, at minimum, 150 individuals who may be hard to employ in the region," Greater Bemidji Executive Director Dave Hengel said. "Those are people who may have barriers to employment, and those can be based on skill, transportation and housing."
The NICDC, according to the DEED release, will use its funding to provide health and human services for individuals with disabilities, people of color, low-income persons and former offenders.
"The Pathways to Prosperity initiative plays an essential role in the training of our state's workforce and in reducing economic disparities in communities," Gov. Mark Dayton said in the release. "These 57 new grants will help connect Minnesotans to valuable education and training opportunities-preparing them for well-paying jobs in health care, advanced manufacturing, information technology and more."
According to Hengel, Greater Bemidji has received this type of funding in the past.
"It's a great program in the sense that it allows us to focus on getting people who want to work in the workforce," Hengel said. "It's very big for the community. I think they recognized the importance of getting people to work in our region, as well as the opportunity for growth in our region."
Hengel also said that Greater Bemidji will look for ways to partner with the NICDC moving forward.
"We work with the CDC quite extensively and look forward to working together on these applications as well," Hengel said. "Collectively, we should be able to make one heck of an impact on the unemployed rate in the area."
Other than Bemidji, communities outside of southern Minnesota and the Twin Cities region receiving funding were Detroit Lakes, which was awarded $550,000 for the Rural Minnesota Concentrated Employment Program, and the city of Duluth, which was provided $326,216.