More than "Minnesota Nice"

April 30, 2019 10:39 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- Southeast Minnesota’s economy continues to grow, but its workforce is still lagging behind.

Despite the region’s increasing population, there aren’t enough workers to fill the jobs that are already here, much less the ones that will be created in coming years.


That’s why Southeast Minnesota Together, a network of community organizations and individuals working together to solve problems in the area, talked about the importance of diversity and inclusiveness yesterday in Chatfield.

“As our jobs continue to grow and as we see more job openings, who’s going to fill those jobs,” asked Allison Liuzzi, project director of Minnesota Compass.

The answer isn’t so easy – it’s one the entire state is grappling with.

“Our number of working workforce aged adults is moving into retirement so while we might stay about the same as we grow the economy we need more workers,” said Sheila Kiscaden, co-chair of Southeast Minnesota Together.

The workforce shortage is especially pressing in Southeast Minnesota, where the working age population is expected to experience a five percent decline through 2030, despite projected population increases.

“This region is growing, this region’s growing more jobs – we already have a workforce shortage,” Kiscaden said.

“We simply don’t have the numbers on our side to fill the open positions we’ll see in the coming years and that involves both bringing people in from other states but also bringing people in from foreign countries,” Liuzzi said.

Which means smaller, rural communities are becoming more diverse.

“We’ve seen incredible growth among our black populations, Asian populations, Hispanic populations – but we’ve also seen different foreign born populations sort of locate and concentrate in different communities,” Liuzzi said.

Those same communities are now looking to answer the same question.

“How do we make it, you know, beyond Minnesota nice? How do we make people feel welcome,” Kiscaden said.

It was that sense of community that let Fatima Said, who now heads Project FINE in Winona, flourish when she came to Rochester as a refugee 25 years ago.

“Kindness of the human race, people in community who didn’t know who I am, but opened their hearts and their minds and their community for me,” Said said.

She said building a community that welcomes anyone works for everyone.

“It’s all about respect. We learn to respect each other and accept people the way that we are,” she said.


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