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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Vital Connections on Air Episode 6: Minnesota's Workforce

Minnesota has a variety of workforce challenges. In Vital Connections on Air Episode 6: Minnesota's Workforce, Laura Kalambokidis discusses how the state's tight labor market presents challenges for both employers and community members searching for creative solutions. Today's guest blogger, Michael Darger, shares his insights on this issue, as well as information about Extension's Business Retention and Expansion program.

Businesses need many resources to succeed, but which resource matters most? Strong management? Raw materials and supplies? Customers? Local support? Each is important, but most business leaders would agree that a talented workforce is crucial to success. To survive and thrive in today’s workforce environment, Minnesota businesses need skilled employees.

Quality workers—and a plentiful supply of them—are a strength of Minnesota’s economy. Despite the cold climate and perception of a higher tax environment, business has thrived here. As a result, Minnesotans benefit from above average incomes and a high quality of life. These advantages stem from our investment in education  and a quality work ethic. Still, there are, warning signals flashing about our workforce, both present and future, and we need to pay attention.

For many years, Extension has helped Minnesota communities survey local businesses through its Business Retention and Expansion (BR&E) program. In recent years, BR&E survey data reveals that local businesses see a tightening availability of a skilled workforce as the most important issue. This finding is backed up by local Minnesota economic development officials (EDOs) who were interviewed this year for a BR&E research project. “If you go to a business, they're all talking about the same thing—there's not enough workers,” said one EDO. Another stated, “We are in desperate need of more employees. For all of our businesses, the struggle to find employees is getting harder.”

As Laura Kalambokidis explains, the workforce shortage in Minnesota is real and likely to grow since we have a large group of people (baby boomers) leaving the workforce. People are also moving from northern states like Minnesota to the South and West. (For example, Florida’s population increased by eight million people since 1990.) In a time of monster hurricanes, such as Harvey, Irma, and Katrina, however, these migrations might slow down or even reverse themselves. Still, it is clear that immigration to Minnesota is, and will continue to be, an important source of new residents and workers. And workforce issues will certainly continue as major news stories because of public policy implications at the federal and state levels.
What can communities do to prepare for—and respond to—the current workforce situation? Laura Kalambokidis explains that a good place to start is learning about your local economy and retaining what you are already good at. This is a smart and time-tested approach. Minnesota DEED has a wealth of information online, as well as labor market analysts who can help you navigate resources. Extension also has a number of programs that help communities. If you want to learn directly from businesses already in your community or region, conducting BR&E visits provides valuable insight.

To learn more about BR&E or related resources, contact Michael Darger at or 612-625-6246.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

2017 Community Leadership Series - Succession Planning for Community Leaders

The 2017 Community Leadership is bringing a new webinar to you in October.  Our FREE webinar "Succession Planning for Community Leaders," will be on October 19, 2017 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (CDT).  This webinar will address a topic many organizations don't think about on a regular basis, planning for the people who come behind them.

Community groups get good at planning...they focus on marketing and promoting events, coordinating fundraising activities, and getting the word out about their projects.  Those same groups, regardless of how successful they are at planning, often overlook the importance of succession planning.  Many never think about this type of planning until they realize that the person(s) holding specific leadership roles or those who have the working knowledge of the organization are ready to leave.  Succession planning is one thing leaders can do to focus on an important piece for the overall success of organizations.  

Jody Horntvedt, Leadership and Civic Engagement Educator will explore the topic of planning for changes in leadership within community groups.  Join us for this 90 minute webinar where Jody will share tips and tools for assuring that your organization is ready for changes in leadership.

Register at by October 10, 2017 at 5:00 p.m. (CDT).

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Vital Connections on Air Episode 5: Minnesota's Economy 101

Minnesota’s economy is diverse. That diverse economy provides resiliency. State Economist Laura Kalambokidis joins Vital Connections On Air to explain Minnesota’s current economic situation.  We welcome Brigid Tuck, Extension Senior Economic Impact Analyst, to tell us more about Minnesota’s economy and Extension’s Economic Futures Workshops.

Minnesota’s economy, in general, looks a lot like the economy of the entire United States. This diversity helps Minnesota  weather economic downturns with fewer job losses than other states. And, the state can recover those lost jobs sooner.  Following the Great Recession of 2008-2009, Minnesota started recovering before the nation as a whole.

Extension researchers examined both employment and output in each of 12 Minnesota regions.  Read the findings and look, specifically, at your region’s economic strengths.

Is all this information intriguing to you?  Want to learn more about your own, local economy? Could your community use a deeper understanding of your local economy to make important decisions that are on the horizon. Then consider one of Extension’s Economic Futures Workshops.

The workshop helps community groups explore the local economy – what are the current strengths? What areas are growing?  What areas might be declining? How can communities help support businesses?

The workshop leads groups to understand the economic impact of 7-10 different industries on local economies. The analysis explores how much the expansion or contraction of one business in each industry would affect jobs, as well as the revenue of other businesses in the area. A facilitated discussion helps the community apply this knowledge to local discussions. As a result, the Futures Workshop helps communities look objectively at the state of their local economy.

Communities that have brought Community Futures Workshops to their area say that they walked away with a stronger understanding of their economy and increased awareness of the need to work together to grow industry. Some communities have discovered that investments they made a few years back really made a difference. Others redoubled their efforts to support their local businesses, with a fuller understanding of their importance.

If you are interested in learning more about your own economy, contact Brigid Tuck at or (507) 389-6979.
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