City-wide internship program bolsters local workforce

Staff photo by Gage Cureton City Manager Chris Dalton speaks to attendees about New Ulm’s economic landscape at a Community-Wide Internship Program gathering at Best Western Plus Tuesday. “With the somewhat aging population we need the vibrancy of the younger workers,” he said.

NEW ULM — Representatives, employees and interns from local businesses heard talking points from City Manager Chris Dalton about the community’s economic landscape during a Community-Wide Internship Program gathering at Best Western Plus Tuesday.

The Community-Wide Internship Program is an initiative created out of a need to help solve a workforce shortage within the community. The program’s goal is to help connect interns with area businesses and facilitate ongoing relationships.

“With the somewhat aging population we need the vibrancy of the younger workers,” Dalton told attendees.

He said the city, along with area businesses and organizations, are looking at how they can keep younger generations in New Ulm to help fill the workforce shortage some businesses and industries might be experiencing.

“There is a shortage,” he said. “Mostly on your factory-side and your retail business-side.”

He said the community shouldn’t focus on just one facet of economic development to help mitigate or solve the workforce shortage issue in community.

“When you think of economic development there are three major components,” he said. “It’s your workforce, it’s your housing and it’s your development that you’re having.”

Dalton said cities need to take an “umbrella approach” to boosting economic development in their communities. What this means, he said, is if communities are seeking economic development and improvement, they need to collectively focus on all three major components.

“You can’t attack just one,” he said.

Dalton said New Ulm has made strides in reinvesting back into the community and addressing all industries within the economic landscape. He provided an example of an unnamed business expanding in New Ulm that has plans to consolidate three adjacent empty buildings under one roof.

“They could have taken their business anywhere else,” he said. “They came to me and we were able to get some state-funding and a loan from the city to help make [New Ulm] their home.”

Dalton said a part of New Ulm’s success in community reinvestment is not only attributed to state and localized funding, but because of business owners partnering together.

“What is it going to take to keep you here and to help you expand,” Dalton said. “And it is a challenge. We’re not a bustling community like Minneapolis or St. Paul — in that metro area. So we have to have an excellent quality of life.” said.

Dalton, a native of California, spoke of his admiration for not only Minnesota’s healthcare system, but also of New Ulm Medical Center.

“Quality of life in New Ulm — there is no shortage in that,” he said.

He said affordable housing is also a important factor in economical development and the city is working to provide an easier means for residents to purchase homes. He said the city created a down payment assistance program that can help residents who earn enough to make rent, but not enough to pay for a down payment on a home. The program contains no income restrictions and comes with a ten year payment plan with the first five years deferred.

“You can buy your house, you can borrow the money for the down payment from us, but you won’t have to worry about payments for five years,” he said.

The city also offers a $5000 dollar grant to new businesses that can help cover start up costs, Dalton said.

“It’s to help you get your foot in the door and hopefully be successful,” he said.

To learn more about the Community-Wide Internship Program, or to register as an intern or a business with internship opportunities, visit https://www.newulm.com/internship-program/

Gage Cureton can be emailed at gcureton@nujournal.com.

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