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DEED commissioner addresses economic concerns with Worthington leaders

Steve Grove visited the community on Monday.

Steve Grove visit
DEED Commissioner Steve Grove (right) explains some current goals of the department at an August 9, 2021 roundtable in Worthington. (Leah Ward / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — "This last legislative session saw one of the biggest job bills — probably the biggest job bill — ever," said Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Commissioner Steve Grove to a roundtable group in Worthington's 10th Street Plaza Monday afternoon.

Grove visited the community to hear from local leaders about their economic concerns. Far southwest Minnesota, he explained, has one of the tightest labor shortages in the state and produces essential goods that drive the state economy.

The recently-passed jobs bill promises support for new and small business, broadband expansion, technology assistance, childcare and stronger unemployment insurance.

State Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, helped craft the jobs bill as the Republican lead on the House Workforce and Business Development Finance and Policy committee. He told Worthington area residents Monday that he's happy to see the bill emphasize diversity, which reflects the demographic makeup of Worthington.

Business and civic leaders shared with Grove that some major barriers to employment are childcare and housing.

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Business owner Lizbeth Lerma explained that she has a hard time hiring employees at her store because they can't find childcare.

It's just too expensive to get a childcare facility started, said Worthington City Administrator Steve Robinson. Without subsidies, an entrepreneur can't afford to get it to cash flow.

Hamilton said bureaucracy is also a limiting factor, noting there are 400 pages of regulations to memorize just to get a childcare business started.

Amy Woitalewicz, Business Finance Director at the Southwest Initiative Foundation, told the group she sees a childcare limitation in her work, as well, but she also hears from employers that believe increased unemployment benefits have contributed to the labor shortage.

Assistant City Administrator/Director of Economic Development Jason Brisson said that in addition to childcare for local residents, Worthington needs more rental housing to attract employees to move to the area. People can't accept jobs here if they can't find a place to live.

Grove listened to the concerns and took notes on how the state might be able to help.

"We want anybody who has a dream to have help," he said.

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
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