SEDA looks at immigrants to possibly fill workforce

The Staples Economic Development Authority (SEDA) Board discussed a workforce gap that is expected statewide. 

While discussing the Thriving Communities Initiative’s workforce development task force, board member Tim Rice said they had reviewed the state demographer’s office report that predicted a shortage of workers for the next 20 years. Rice, CEO  of Lakewood  of Health System, said they are already feeling the shortage. He said in the past Lakewood would have up to 100 applicants for a single position, now they’re only seeing ten applicants for the same position.

“We’re running into a problem where people aren’t even applying for work,” said Rice.

Board member Mary Klamm, Superintendent of Staples Motley Schools, said the education field is seeing the same thing. Citing demographic predictions, Klamm said “it’s only going to get worse.”

Rice said a lot of communities are dealing with the gap through diversity, by bringing in immigrants or other groups in need of work.

Rice said the success of bringing in a group of immigrants depends on the community. “How do you accept them, greet them and make them feel a part of the community?” he asked.

Board member Kevin Jenkins said he thought Staples would acccept diverse populations as long as it wasn’t a large group from just one culture that doesn’t want to assimilate into the community.

Klamm gave examples of communities that had success with family groups that came for jobs. She said we could learn from other communities in Minnesota who have worked with different groups of immigrants.

“The more we know, the better, because it’s going to happen overnight,” said Klamm.

Restaurant, airport

The SEDA also discussed the hotel development and restaurant. 

Economic Development Director Melissa Radermacher said the owners of Prairie Bay restaurant in Baxter are interested in starting a business in Staples. She put them in contact with the family building the new hotel and purchasing the former Town’s Edge Restaurant. Radermacher said it’s  up to the two groups to decide if they want to work together. Radermacher said Prairie Bay is still interested in Staples whether they use that location or look for a different site.

The SEDA discussed a new business at the Staples Airport. City Administrator Jerel Nelsen said the business will bring in pilots from out of town and the city is considering ways to make them feel welcome. The city already has a car available to pilots but Nelsen said they were looking at developing coupons and other ways to get the pilots to know what is available in Staples.

The SEDA also discussed the possiblity of implementing a lodging tax to use for marketing the community.

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