The U.S. Department of Commerce has awarded Itasca County with $190,000 to hire an economic recovery coordinator to help boost economic development.

According to a press release from Minnesota Representative Pete Stauber, the congressman joined Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith on Monday in announcing the federal investment.

“I’m happy to see that the Department of Commerce has decided to make this key investment in Itasca County,” Stauber said. “Rural Minnesota matters, and this investment will go a long way towards unleashing the economic engine in this important area of Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District.”

Minnesota Employment and Economic Development reported in April that 20,547 individuals were employed. The not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate sank to 6.4 percent compared to 11.4 percent in the same month in 2009.

Itasca County has a long history in natural resources for employment in logging, mining and manufacturing. The unemployment rate has decreased over the past decade, but it remains higher than the statewide rate of 3.3 percent in April. (DEED shows that the state’s not seasonally adjusted numbers dipped to 2.9 percent in May yet no figures are available for the county in that month.)

In November 2016, St. Paul-based non-profit Wilder Research published the “Itasca County Workforce Streams Study,” which stated that “employment in Itasca County has historically relied on the country’s rich natural resources for jobs in logging, mining, and manufacturing. But the county has recently experienced volatility and declining employment in these industries.” The authors of the report continued, “This has been coupled with tremendous growth in health care, in part due to changing demographics and an aging population. Taken together, recent trends and future projections suggest that the county may be in the midst of transitioning from a production-based economy to a service-based economy.”

This week, Klobuchar stated that the recent Commerce Department investment into Itasca County “will encourage innovation and help our workers find and retain good jobs in the 21st century economy.” She continued, “We need to make every effort to attract and retain good businesses in Grand Rapids and Itasca County. Itasca County has a skilled and productive workforce and abundant natural resources and this investment will help Itasca Economic Development Corporation sustain a healthy local economy.”

Smith echoed such sentiments, “Investments like these spur economic development. When our rural areas thrive, we create a 21st century economy that works for everyone.”

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