From Sheri Booms Holm, West Central Initiative

A new workforce development grant program from West Central Initiative will help organizations and units of government in west central Minnesota try out new ideas to growing and retaining a skilled workforce in west central Minnesota. The Workforce Solutions Grant Program aims to fund qualified workforce development initiatives that help people obtain the knowledge, skills and supports needed to secure higher paying positions in the region. The projects should also strengthen the competitiveness of west central Minnesota employers by ensuring that employers are supportive of, and have access to, talented workers.

“The workforce shortage is a common and growing concern in the nine-country region we serve,” said Wendy Merrick, WCI’s program director. “For many years we have offered workforce development grants to make in-roads in hiring and retaining a skilled workforce. We are constantly testing and retuning our grant program to meet changing needs and be more responsive to the organizations we work with. Workforce Solutions grants are flexible enough to work for small community projects and larger region-wide initiatives alike.”

While skills training and career fairs are some of the first ideas mentioned in workforce development, Merrick hopes to see proposals that position applicants to tackle more of the barriers that keep individuals from obtaining—and retaining—employment in the region. “Child care, transportation, wages, language—these are some of the reasons people may not be able to take or keep a job,” Merrick said.

Examples of innovative workforce development projects, along with more information about Workforce Solutions are at To begin the discussion, contact Merrick at 800-735-2239 or

Workforce Solutions is one of several new resources WCI is offering to help strengthen the economy of west central Minnesota, including the Live Wide Open ( regional marketing campaign to encourage people to make the region their home.

West Central Initiative is a regional community foundation serving the nine west central Minnesota counties of Becker, Clay, Douglas, Grant, Otter Tail, Pope, Stevens, Traverse and Wilkin. WCI invests resources in our communities for regional success, using the tools of economic development and community development, and by promoting philanthropy. Learn more at