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In Appleton, the UMVRDC has just begun work on trying to alter some of the perceptions of the region, creating what Executive Director Dawn Hegland calls a “regional attraction plan”: an effort to present the region, largely through digital media, to people who are considering a move to rural areas.
The initiative will build on the work already being done by Western Minnesota Prairie Waters, a marketing initiative whose logo is an image of Minnesota with the words “Get Rural.”More visibility would help.
Until then, the agency had at least one open position for four years.
In fact, across this region, employers are dealing with a troubling trend: As Minnesota's rural economy continues to recover from the Great Recession, many busineess and nonprofits are primed for growth – but are operating short-staffed or holding back on expansion due to concerns over finding enough workers.“People in both rural areas and the Twin Cities maybe don’t have a realistic view of the opportunities statewide,” said Luke Greiner, an economic analyst for the state Department of Employment and Economic Development.
When her agency was hiring, Hegland said, some open positions got no applicants at all.
Filling those positions, however, is another matter.In Montevideo, the Chippewa River empties into the Minnesota River as it flows southeast, toward Granite Falls and New Ulm and on to Mankato.On a late summer morning, the fields in the area stand tall with head-high corn and shimmer with green waves of soybeans.When the company recently went looking for an operations manager, it cast its net near and far, advertising in local newspapers, on Craigslist, on the job-search website Indeed. It's become a common lament for employers in this part of the state, one that doesn't just affect manufacturers.In Appleton, 25 miles up the road from Montevideo on U. Route 59, the Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission, a nonprofit that works with cities and counties on development projects, just recently hired someone for an open position.
The search was made even more challenging because many candidates needed to have college degrees, experience in community planning or similar areas and, hopefully, some knowledge of the region.