Hello Iron Range! attracting workforce to Northeast Minnesota

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Hello Iron Range! website screen shot

Being a Workforce Strategy Consultant is all about making connections and developing solutions to help employers find the employees they need to grow and thrive in Minnesota. One of the most exciting projects that I have been working on is Hello Iron Range! a talent attraction website designed to promote the Iron Range and help businesses recruit and retain talent to the region. My partner in this project has been Beth Pierce, Executive Director from Iron Range Tourism.

The project was funded with support from the Blandin Broadband Initiative and the Iron Range Tourism Bureau. The purpose of the site is to be a resource to those considering a move to the Iron Range, showcasing our key employers, quality of life, low cost of housing and more. We also feature blogs from community leaders discussing education, what it’s like to relocate here, broadband access, and a variety of other topics of concern to those thinking of living or working here.

Hello Iron Range! has been in development for around a year and a half now. We convened several focus groups of local employers, local Chambers of Commerce and community leaders to discuss what should be included on a website promoting the area to a potential workforce. Beth and I also worked to recruit local leaders to blog about the Iron Range, and we plan on rolling those blogs out over time.

Why a talent attraction site for the range is so important

One of the big challenges facing Northeast Minnesota is a lack of people moving from other parts of the country and the world to the region. Unlike some other parts of the state, we are not seeing an influx of new people up here. The little international immigration we get is the only helping to mitigate population decline (see Table 1), which would have huge economic and political effects for the region.

Table 1. Cumulative Estimates of the Components of Population Change, April 1, 2010-July 1, 2019

 

Total Population Change Natural Increase

Vital Events

Net Migration

     

Births

Deaths

Total

International

Domestic

Northeast Minnesota

-1,927

-2,911

29,637

32,548

1,287

1,684

-397

Minnesota

335,705

250,488

637,356

386,868

88,161

114,414

-26,253

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Population Estimates Program

 

Along with a lack of people moving to the area, our population in Northeast Minnesota is aging rapidly and the death rate has outpaced the birth rate over the past decade. According to Carson Gorecki, Labor Market Analyst for DEED in Northeast Minnesota, “The median age in NE MN is 48.4, compared to 38.3 in MN. In fact, by far the fastest growing population group in Northeastern Minnesota over the next 20 years is regional residents 85 and older, which is slated to grow 108.9%.” We need new people to come into the area to replace the older population moving out of the workforce, and also to provide goods and services to that retired population. And the aging trend for Northeast Minnesota will continue on for years (see Table 2).

Table 2. Population Projections, 2020-2040

2020-2040 Change

Northeast Minnesota

2020 Projection

2030 Projection

2040 Projection

Numeric

Percent

Under 5 years

        13,893

      14,783

       14,289

396

2.9%

5-14 years

        34,008

      28,133

       30,068

-3,940

-11.6%

15-24 years

        44,691

      41,232

       36,509

-8,182

-18.3%

25-34 years

        37,928

      38,738

       36,583

-1,345

-3.5%

35-44 years

        35,658

      36,662

       38,765

3,107

8.7%

45-54 years

        35,543

      34,317

       36,518

975

2.7%

55-64 years

        48,481

      34,181

       34,106

-14,375

-29.7%

65-74 years

        45,124

      46,933

       34,203

-10,921

-24.2%

75-84 years

        23,712

      38,633

       40,693

16,981

71.6%

85 years & over

          8,901

      11,444

       18,594

9,693

108.9%

Total

      327,939

    325,056

     320,328

-7,611

-2.3%

Source: Minnesota State Demographic Center

 

The value of a site like Hello Iron Range!

One of the reasons we wanted to build a site like Hello Iron Range! Is to help us have a platform to tell the true story of the Iron Range. Some people still think of the Iron Range like it was in the 1980s. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard that the Iron Range has no jobs, when in reality before the pandemic we had more jobs than we had people to fill them. I also hear time and time again that the Iron Range is unwelcoming or unfriendly, where the opposite is usually true. People here generally will bend over backward to help you if you need it. Part of the goal of Hello Iron Range! is to show that side of the Range.

For businesses, the value of Hello Iron Range! Is to help internal and external recruiting. We’ve had several businesses in our focus group comment that they would send the link to this site to those who might be interested in applying from outside the region or transferring to the region to give them a better feel for the area and what’s available. It’s reassuring to those considering a move to the area that we have Target, Caribou Coffee, good restaurants and great schools. Many people find our low cost of living and easy commutes enticing. Up here, driving 20 miles takes 20 minutes.

 I hope you can take a few minutes to visit the Hello Iron Range! Website now: https://www.helloironrange.com/

Shawn Herhusky, Northeast Minnesota Workforce Strategy Consultant, DEED

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