West Central Blogger

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sunrise session in Pope County

If it's Wednesday, it must be a community breakfast.

For the third week in a row, WCI staff headed out in the wee hours to host a town meeting. This time about 25 folks from all around Pope County met at the Village Inn in Glenwood to talk about their communities.

The lack of a county jail and the recent breakdown in talks with Stevens County about a joint jail/law enforcement center were hot topics, as was concern about the area's infrastructure--water, sewer and cell phone and/or Internet access.

Employers talked about the barriers to getting positions filled: lack of housing and daycare in the area, and few skilled workers. Local industries are tackling this. "We just want people who want to work, and we'll train them," one employer said. This was true for manufacturers, healthcare facilities and other businesses represented around the table. WCI has helped several area employers with their training programs through its Workforce 2020 grants. Businesses are also working with local high schools to get students exposed to and interested in the kinds of work available in the area.

Child care is a growing issue.

"If you don't have quality child care, it's tough for workers to come in and do quality work," said Jeannie Pederson, Pope County Early Childhood and Thrive coordinator.

"(Lack of) day care can cost us 10 percent of worker hours," an employer added.

Pederson discussed the work that Thrive was accomplishing. She invited those gathered to attend a Nov. 14 presentation in Glenwood by Charlie Appelstein on "No Such Thing as a Bad Kid."

Some talked about the opportunities that this area has to offer--a beautiful location, available jobs, newer schools, the early childhood coalition--and challenged the area's communities to think of doing more together, like a joint chamber of commerce between Starbuck and Glenwood, and combining forces to tackle infrastructure issues.

WCI holds several of these community meetings throughout west central Minnesota each year. Want to know when we'll be in your area? Contact Kim Embretson to find out.

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