West Central Blogger

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

DEED, and the need for SEED

Back in September DEED Commissioner Dan McElroy facilitated a forum in Fergus Falls to find out some of west central Minnesota's most pressing issues about economic development.

Today, he returned to present findings from his September visit and to outline how Governor Tim Pawlenty's Strategic Entrepreneurial Economic Development (SEED) program could help the region.

There's a lot to be said about living and working here, the forum participants pointed out: outdoor attractions, clean air, low crime, short commutes and urban amenities. Still, businesses indicated a great need for skilled workers. Communities wanted more support for entrepreneurship and small business development, as well as more state, regional and local investment in infrastructure of all types. Participants also called for more two-way collaboration between education and employers, from K-12 through higher education.

McElroy then outlined how SEED would benefit Greater Minnesota and the proposed funding. Take a look:
Developing and Growing Entrepreneurs
New Capital for Rural Businesses
Sustained Competitive Advantage for Rural Minnesota

Sen. Coleman takes the pulse of region on health care issues

Senator Norm Coleman recently held three town hall forums in west central Minnesota. The conference room at Lake Region Healthcare was full Monday morning as Sen. Coleman presented an overview of his vision for expanding health insurance coverage and lowering health care costs, and then listened to constituent concerns. These concerns ranged from a family practitioner's hope for better Medicare reimbursements to a senior's personal frustration with understanding the Medicare system.

Sen. Coleman is currently shepherding seven bills related to rural healthcare through the Senate. "Quality of healthcare shouldn't depend on your zipcode," he told the audience.

His issues:
  • Every person should have health care. The senator believes it begins with tax reform and refundable tax credits.

  • People shouldn't worry about losing their insurance if they get sick. Insurance needs to be portable. Leaving an employer, starting a new businesses, changing jobs or spending more time at home with family shouldn't risk one's health care coverage.

  • There needs to be a change of attitude. "There is a need to focus on wellness and prevention. Obesity is a big problem," he said. "I'm also a big believer in individual responsibility. We need to educate consumers so they can make better choices."

  • Health care decisions should not be made by Washington bureaucrats. While government can help, the decisions should be in the hands of citizens and their doctors. Health care reform shouldn't be a one-size-fits-all approach. There should be a variety of options.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Something we'd all be thankful for: ending poverty

For many, there'll be no horn of plenty this Thanksgiving, or any day for that matter. Families--more than we care to admit, and often for generations--have been mired in the muck that is poverty and find it nearly impossible to get out. The Minnesota Legislature's Commission to End Poverty by 2020, a bipartisan group of 18 senators and representatives, is hoping to find the means to put an end to poverty once and for all.

The commission is holding a public forum in Alexandria on Nov. 30, 1-3 pm at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 411 Hawthorne Street. It's an opportunity for residents of Douglas, Grant, Pope, Stevens and Traverse counties to share their personal experiences with living in poverty and its effects on their families and local communities.

The forum will also give legislators an insight into whether citizens have the will to support significant new efforts necessary to eliminate poverty in Minnesota by the year 2020. The commission is required to make recommendations to the full legislature by Dec. 15, 2008.

The forum is sponsored by West Central MN Communities Action, Inc. and the United Way of Douglas & Pope Counties.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Try this in your county: Fall Fun 511

Grant County's Child and Youth Council works to make sure the county's children grow up healthy, happy and learning to the utmost of their abilities. That means providing critical resources and services for children ages 0 to 22 and their families. And it doesn't hurt to add some fun into the mix, either!

The council hosted its annual "Fall Fun 511" at the Ashby School, Nov. 13. The event celebrated youth in the Grant County School District. After a light dinner, the evening included fun activities, music and informational break-out sessions for kids and adults. There was also time to discuss programs available to county youth, voice concerns, ask questions, and determine next steps to improving all that's done for the children in Grant County schools and communities.

WCI currently partners with the Child and Youth Council through our Early Childhood Initiative.

Donors, Nov. 15 is your special day!

Every Nov. 15, nonprofits pause to recognize the great contributions of philanthropy -- and those people active in the philanthropic community -- to the enrichment of our world. Frankly, without the support of our donors--individuals, communities, other foundations, etc.--we couldn't do our mission to help make west central Minnesota the best place in which to live and work.

Here at WCI, we just sent out our annual report highlighting what we've accomplished in the past year. It's one way we remain accountable to our contributors. It's our chance to recognize all of you for your generosity, as well. To all our fiscal year 2007 donors (July 1, 2006-June 30, 2007): we offer our thanks on your very own thanksgiving day--one week early!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

It's never too early (or too late!) for career planning

Do you know what career your child is interested in pursuing? Many parents don’t. And don’t be surprised if your child doesn’t know either. That’s a problem, because it’s good for your children to start early—as early as eighth grade—thinking about their interests and skills and how these could translate into a career.

MnCareers (www.iseek.org/mncareers) is a great place for students to start looking into careers. They can click on “Start Exploring” and take the online interest assessment. “Investigate Careers” describes many possible occupations that match their interests. There are resources available for parents, too.

Don’t think your child has to move far away from home to get a good job, either. There are many high-demand, high-pay occupations throughout west central Minnesota. The 2008 MnCareers supplement details the kinds of workers that are needed in this area, plus education requirements and potential wages. Download a PDF of the supplement, or learn more at www.iseek.org/mncareers/myplace/edr4.html or www.iseek.org/westcentral/.

Been out of school for a while? The same online tools can be applied to YOUR job search!

Monday, November 5, 2007

What does an aging workforce mean to our state and local economies?

As more and more baby boomers hit retirement age, and more and more schools experience declining enrollment, employers are starting to get a little nervous about their future workforce.

Minnesota State Demographer Tom Gillaspy and Minnesota Chief Economist Tom Stinson recently presented sobering statistics, interesting challenges and possible solutions at Alexandria's second annual Manufacturers and Industries Breakfast.

Read about their presentation.