A hometown newspaper with a local office, local owners & lots of local news

On The Mark: Economic development thrives in Carlton County

Carlton County workers and businesses are receiving economic development support through funds provided by the State of Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). Recently announced competitive awards fall into two categories: business expansion grants and workforce development grants.

In a recent competition for $6 million in business expansion grants, Carlton’s Chemstar Products Company has been awarded $140,000 from the state’s job creation fund. Chemstar, a leading provider of starch-based polymers used in industrial applications, is committing $1.5 million in capital improvement projects at its Carlton production facility for plant and warehouse expansion. The award will increase their workforce by seven qualifying jobs paying an average of almost $20 per hour. Chemstar’s award is one of 13 workforce development grants totaling nearly $2.2 million that the Minnesota Jobs Skills Partnership has awarded competitively to assist businesses and educational institutions train workers to keep high-quality jobs in the state.

In a companion December announcement, DEED awarded $2.2 million for job training grants to assist businesses and educational institutions in training workers to keep high-quality jobs in the state. One of 13 successful applicants, the team of Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College and Sappi have been awarded $300,000. Sappi is currently experiencing an increase in turnover due to retirement of its more senior workers, many of whom possess skills that are not well-documented. The joint project will capture and formalize the knowledge of these senior maintenance employees in a structured and sustainable form. Sappi will use the data bank to create, with FDLTCC, new training programs for less experienced employees and new hires.

These kinds of competitions and awards are powerful tools for encouraging new and better jobs in Minnesota and supporting training programs that involve company and educational institution partnerships like the Fond du Lac/Sappi team.

In a recent retrospective report, “Jobs and Wage Growth Continue in Minnesota,” DEED summarizes the progress of the Minnesota economy since Covid first emerged. The state’s unemployment rate has fallen to pre-pandemic levels, but labor force participation remains lower than pre-Covid. Minnesota’s labor force is now more than 84,000 workers smaller than it was just prior to the pandemic, but our labor force participation rate is well above the national rate of 61.6 percent in October. The number of Minnesotans working involuntary part-time — meaning they want a fulltime job but are working part-time because they can’t find a fulltime job — has declined over the past few months. It was the lowest on record for October, with records dating back to 2001.

Wages and hours have increased since before the pandemic both in Minnesota and nationally. Minnesota’s job growth has been slightly above the national average over the past two months. DEED commissioner Steve Grove notes that employers are paying higher wages, out-pacing inflation, and presenting good opportunities for job seekers.

Ann Markusen is an economist and professor emerita at University of Minnesota. A Pine Knot board member, she lives in Red Clover Township north of Cromwell with her husband, Rod Walli. For more details on this subject, see DEED’s website report by Jen Gates and Oriana Casale, Jobs and Wage Growth Continue in Minnesota, Nov. 18, 2021.

Rendered 07/22/2024 03:46