By: Minnesota State Senator Kevin Dahle
Senator Dahle Supports Greater Minnesota Development Initiatives
Senators from across Greater Minnesota came together this week to present our ideas to drive greater investment in workforce housing, job training, and workforce development in rural parts of the state. While the whole state is recovering from the recent recession, we’re recovering at different rates. Overall, Minnesota has seen one of the strongest recoveries in the country, but parts of Greater Minnesota have not seen an equal share of the growth, and we can do better. Coming out of the recession, the challenges Greater Minnesota faces are not necessarily more substantial than metro areas in the state, but they are different, and they haven’t been addressed as effectively as they should. Several of the solutions proposed this week grew from in-depth discussions I took part in last fall as part of the bipartisan Senate Rural Task Force.
Expanding job opportunities and connecting people to available jobs are some of the major themes driving this package of legislation. One major bill is aimed at closing the employment gap in Greater Minnesota. Rural businesses tend to experience a shortage of skilled workers at higher rates than the metro; we plan to invest close to $27 million in workforce development centers across rural Minnesota so they can help young Minnesotans connect the dots between school, colleges, and careers in their communities.
Too often, a person hoping to relocate to a rural community can’t find affordable housing even when they find a job. A lack of workforce housing means that our businesses can’t expand, and our communities can’t grow. New legislation would get Greater Minnesota workers and families into homes they can afford in the communities they love by combining several already successful programs from neighboring states.
Implementing or expanding already successful programs is the cornerstone for this Greater Minnesota economic development package. By using proven methods to enact critical infrastructure improvements, grants will help businesses expand by funding up to 50 percent of the capital costs, leading to expanded economic growth and increases in the tax base. Similarly, expanding a wildly successful DEED pilot program would allow the state to reimburse businesses millions of dollars in job training costs, making it easier to prepare unemployed Minnesotans for the growing number of job vacancies in their own towns.
Finally, increased access to high speed broadband is critical if we are going to make the best use of all our investments. 450,000 Minnesota households still lack access to basic broadband – about 20 percent of the state. Fast and reliable internet access is a multiplier effect that has major repercussions on business growth, health care, e-commerce, education, and nearly every part of our 21st century lives.
If we’re going to get serious about increased economic growth in Greater Minnesota, it’s time to invest in our futures. This package of legislation is a good start, and I’m glad to have played a part in its creation. As always, please contact me if you have thoughts about these initiatives, questions about other legislation, or comments on the ongoing legislative session.