Creating jobs, growing business to together

Published 1:26 pm Saturday, March 12, 2016

Capitol Comments, By Peggy Bennett

Jobs are an important issue for our local communities in rural Minnesota. There seem to be fewer and fewer well-paying jobs that can support a family in our area. It is getting more difficult for many people to make ends meet and just simply put groceries on the table. Greater Minnesota is still recovering from the recession, and the dollar just doesn’t go as far as it used to. The median household income in Minnesota has dropped in the last several years while inflation has risen.

Peggy Bennett

Peggy Bennett

This trend isn’t sustainable, and fellow legislators and I are working hard to find long-term solutions for rural communities, with a focus on creating more good-paying jobs.

Email newsletter signup

During the session, I meet weekly with fellow Greater Minnesota legislators from both the House and Senate. We are continually brainstorming and discussing way to bring jobs to our communities. Our goal is to have our areas offer opportunities to hardworking individuals and businesses. We want to give our young people the option to raise their families in the community they themselves grew up in and love and not have to move to a city just to make ends meet.

As important as it is to create new jobs, it is also critical for our area to fill current open jobs. What some people may not realize is that there are employers in our area who are having a hard time filling open positions because there are not enough people with the right training in our job market. There are nearly 200 open jobs within a 10-mile radius of Albert Lea because there aren’t enough people trained in engineering, welding and electrical work.

Coordinating our job training with employers in our community will help people get the education they need for the jobs that are available. Last session the House passed $1.8 million in job training grants, including one that would allow Riverland Community College and local businesses to partner together to provide training to prepare people for those specialized positions. This will help these industries that are understaffed in our area expand and provide workers with jobs that can support families.

Investing in workforce housing will also encourage businesses to expand and move into our district because we can accommodate the workforce that they require. A coordinated effort between business and education in rural Minnesota is common sense; it will help both workers and the employers to build our economy.

Another step in the right direction is setting up broadband in rural Minnesota. In a global economy, it’s important that our local communities stay competitive with our neighbors. Last year $10,588,000 was put toward rural broadband grants. Broadband will help support our schools, hospitals and long-term care facilities. It will be easier for our students to access a wider variety of resources during their educations, and they will graduate better prepared for the job market, trade school or college. This is an area we need to work on more as a state.

I look forward to finding more ways to help create jobs in our community this session. I hope to hear from you with any ideas you may have on the subject.