Isanti County financial institutions’ representatives were invited to learn about various business resources available in the community at an Isanti County Economic Development Authority meeting July 28 at the Isanti County Government Center in Cambridge.
Two guests from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development were among the speakers. Labor market analyst Luke Greiner used a slideshow presentation to display statistics and compare the incomes of various professions, showcasing how the local area and state are doing compared to other surrounding areas.
According to Greiner, production and manufacturing positions in the area are displaying less of a wage gap than other jobs. He urged the audience to pay attention to whether results are measured by hourly wages versus weekly wages. Greiner explained presenting weekly wages is a bad representation of these workers’ income, since their hourly wages could remain the same while workers put in overtime to make up for the shortage.
Greiner explained the average Minnesota family needs to make $59,428 annually or $19.05 per hour to live in Isanti County. The most demanded job in Isanti County is a nursing assistant with a median wage of $25,619, and Isanti County had 10,913 jobs provided by 764 employers in 2014.
In Isanti County, there are 14,795 residents commuting elsewhere each workday, with about 4,000 of them commuting to Hennepin County. Meanwhile, 4,753 people drive into Isanti County to work, and 4,769 of local residents are employed in the county. Greiner stated employees would have to make an extra $82.43 a day at work to make a 44-mile trip to work (one way) worthwhile.
Heather Rund, also with DEED, gave the audience an update on economic development tools available through the organization. Rund described a few program services and related development assistance, such as numerous loans, grants, tax credits and other business resources offered by DEED. Visit www.positivelyminnesota.com to learn more.
Rebekah Kent, director of strategic grant initiatives at Central Lakes College, informed attendees of a program their employees can undergo through the Advanced Manufacturing Education Alliance. This hybrid learning model allows manufacturing workers to earn career advancement skill sets while at the workplace, saving themselves and their employer time and money. So far, there are 107 employers participating (725 participants total).
“They are actually doing better than students in traditional schooling. I think there is some great opportunity here for what we’ve built,” Kent said.
Classes through the alliance run a flat rate fee of $99, so Kent urges those interested in boosting their skills in manufacturing, welding and robotics to take advantage of the price before the grant funding the program runs out and it resumes to full price in March 2016. Visit www.amealliance.org for more information.
Another source businesses may find helpful can be found by visiting isanti.toolsforbusiness.info. Isanti County EDA consultant Janna King walked the audience through the site, pointing out the toolkit that wouldn’t otherwise be available to a small business unless it had a large human resource department. The site offers information on how to get a business off the ground as well as tools to keep businesses in compliance by staying up to date on ever-changing requirements.
The East Central Regional Development Commission presented another option for businesses. The organization established a loan fund designed to offer fixed asset financing for new, expanding and relocating businesses. Locally, BowDaddy Archery Company, Snap Fitness and Cambridge Bar and Grill were all revolving loan recipients. Projects located in Chisago, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs and Pine counties are eligible to receive these loans. Visit www.ecrdc.org for more information.
The meeting continued with dialogue with financial institution representatives, who were outspoken about how well manufacturing is doing in the area.
An update was given on the Minnesota Marketing Partnership Site Selector Fam Tour. The hope for this project is by uniting the five surrounding counties in this way, it will put Isanti County on the map from a national perspective and enable others to see the successful manufacturing industries located in the county. Testimonies of local CEOs will play a large role in the success of the program.
An informational packet brought attendees up to date on the passenger and commuter rail, which is currently in the preliminary engineering-national environmental policy act phase. The project anticipates earning federal approval and up to 80 percent federal funding to get service started. The Northern Lights Express is a proposed passenger rail project between the Minneapolis Target Field Station and Duluth. A feasibility study predicts it will encourage 13,800 jobs and spur approximately $2 billion in development along the 155 mile-corridor.
The next meeting of the Isanti County Economic Development Authority will be Oct. 27 at the Isanti County Government Center.
Graphics provided by Luke Greiner with Department of Employment and Economic Development.