Study funded by AgStar grantEconomic development money will help advance training center
By: Laura Grevas, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — The Worthington Area Training and Testing Center is one step closer to fruition.
The Worthington Regional Economic Development Corporation Thursday received a $5,000 grant from AgStar Financial Services to offset costs of a regional business study aimed at determining goals for the center.
WREDC was one of several organizations to receive a grant for feasibility studies aimed at economic development in rural areas.
“We did have a lot of applications. The board of trustees really liked this one especially because of the partnerships involved,” said Jody Bloemke, Fund Administrator at Mankato-based AgStar, referring to the many organizations collaborating on the project.
The center is a joint effort of WREDC, Minnesota West, the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, the city of Worthington, Nobles County and local businesses.
“We also liked the fact that this was being used to educate and promote youth staying in rural communities. And it was a real innovative program,” she continued. “A lot of times (people) can get grant funding for a project … but this study will help focus more on what exactly they need to address and where its going to have the best impact.”
The survey will be conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Office of Measurement Services, and results could be ready as soon as early spring. Representatives from each organization involved are currently working with the office to draft questions, which will be given to employers within an hour radius of Worthington.
Glenn Thuringer, manager of economic development and membership services at WREDC, said the survey’s purpose is two-fold. The first part aims to identify job skill sets considered vital by employers from several industries — manufacturing, bioscience and agriculture to name a few — and find some common skills.
The survey will also address the education level employers desire for their employees.
“We’re hoping they go through a two-year course (at the center), and then go into the workforce and then have the ability to take the other two years as they’re working and get their four-year degree,” he said.
The other part will seek to focus on needs for the center.
“We want to have a high level of professional service, but yet have the opportunity for students to learn from it,” Thuringer said. “The survey will help determine the size of the classroom and the size of the lab.”
Mayor Alan Oberloh expressed support for the center, which will be located in the Bioscience Park at the intersection of U.S. 59 and Interstate 90.
“The governor’s green job initiative fits right in with what we’re trying to do here,” Oberloh said.
Current plans for the center include incubator stalls with offices, a classroom, a laboratory, a shared conference space and reception area. The state has already donated $1.3 million toward development of the project.
This estimated $7,000 survey is the first step.
“A survey is so essential in the foundation of planning,” said Minnesota West Provost Diane Graber. “It doesn’t have color or pizazz, but it’s essential.”