|Program||# of Grants||EDA Funds|
Like so many communities across the country, manufacturers in Bemidji, Minnesota, needed trained workers to survive. The community faced an economic Catch-22: as the number of job vacancies at local manufacturers continued to rise, so did the region’s unemployment roles as under-training applicants were unable to fill the jobs on offer.
Facing a daunting skills gap, the region established the Minnesota Innovation Initiative (MI2). The program has two complementary goals: to increase the number of manufacturing jobs by encouraging startups, and to increase the number of qualified manufacturing job applicants through training. In order to achieve the latter goal, the program needed a strong training program to serve as a foundation for responding to the manufacturing needs. In 2015, EDA awarded $300,000 to support construction of a new welding and fabrication lab at Northwest Technical College’s Bemidji campus. The proposed lab space and state-of-the-art lab equipment will assist the region's manufacturers by providing a mechanism to upskill the current manufacturing workforce and by developing a pipeline of new high-skilled workers.