Editorial: Support needed to solve worker, housing concerns

Published 9:48 am Wednesday, August 19, 2015



Albert Lea leaders made it loud and clear Tuesday in a roundtable discussion in front of three state DFL legislative representatives that something has to change.

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With hundreds of jobs available in Albert Lea and not enough people to take them, the city is in a crisis of sorts. Some local businesses are struggling to find skilled workers and to retain employees, and others are choosing not to locate here in the first place because they are afraid they will not be able to find the workforce to fill their open jobs.

The same is happening all over Greater Minnesota.

With the baby boomers retiring and people having fewer children, there are fewer people in the local job market from the start. Population trends show that may only get worse.

What can the state do make a difference?

We heard local leaders on Tuesday say they are having a hard time recruiting workers because they are challenged to find a good place to rent. We ask state leaders to remember this challenge in the next session and approve legislation that would make it easier for future development of workforce housing in rural Minnesota.

Albert Lea is seeing its first market-rate rental housing complex being built in decades this summer, but this will only address part of the need for housing here. A recent housing study showed the need for 100 market-rate rental housing units in the city.

State lawmakers must also remember to support growth of broadband across the state and programs that support our local community colleges.

Riverland Community College and other community colleges across the state are stepping up to fill the gap in workers. Remember, if we succeed, Minnesota succeeds.