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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Minnesota State Mankato is key partner in $5 million federal project

WIRED renewable energy labor force

Minnesota State University, Mankato is one of two key higher education partners leading implementation of a $5-million, three-year federal grant to enhance the renewable energy labor force in Minnesota.

Minnesota State University, Mankato Media Relations Office news release [6/22/2007]

Minnesota State University, Mankato is one of two key higher education partners leading implementation of a $5-million, three-year federal grant to enhance the renewable energy labor force in southwest and west-central Minnesota.

The U.S. Department of Labor grant, intended to encourage workers to stay in rural Minnesota, was announced this week by U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao. It is one of 13 recent grants awarded by the Labor Department’s Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development (WIRED) program.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development will administer the grant, and Minnesota West and Minnesota State Mankato will lead other higher education partners to develop training for new workers in emerging bioscience and renewable energy industries.

The grant’s focus is the labor force in a 36-county “Ag Innovation Triangle” from Norman and Rock counties on the west to Freeborn County on the east. The area includes 85 percent of the state’s renewable energy projects, including 14 ethanol plants, three bio-diesel plants and 53 wind turbine farms.

Chao said a key reason Minnesota was selected for the grant is its “25 by 25” goal: 25 percent of the state’s energy from renewable sources by 2025. She said the goal creates a “tremendous array of partners” to offer new skilled, knowledge-based jobs in rural communities.

“The combination of industry investment, natural resources, and leadership has spurred tremendous economic growth in the region,” said Commissioner Dan McElroy of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. “Now they need a workforce that will be able to sustain that growth.”

The grant “will strengthen the emerging regional academic and economic development consortium, led by renewable energy, manufacturing and value-added agriculture industries,” said Minnesota State Mankato President Richard Davenport.

“Regional manufacturing and energy industries are inextricably linked,” Davenport added. “Our state college and university campuses have initiated new renewable energy innovations in science, engineering and manufacturing to transform an agriculture-based economy into a more highly skilled and knowledge-based workforce.”

He said the Minnesota Center for Engineering and Manufacturing Excellence at Minnesota State Mankato is committed to provide “time and resources to ensure the success of this innovative proposal.”

Chao said the Minnesota grant will mean “K to gray” education: lifelong training and retraining of workers in the renewable energy, bioscience, agriculture and manufacturing.

“These grants are catalysts to mobilizing the diverse array of stakeholders in a community to focus on developing the human talent that will be key to any successful regional economic plan,” she added.

The Department of Labor launched WIRED in late 2005. In 2006, the first round of grants were awarded to 13 regions across the nation. In January 2007, grants were awarded to 13 additional regions. This week’s grant to Minnesota and 12 other regions across the nation represents the third generation of the WIRED projects.

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