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Economic Summit and annual meeting caps off a big week for the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce

The Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce held an economic development summit at the Historic Holmes Theatre on May 7 and followed it up with their annual meeting to connect their members at the Holiday Inn on May 12. Jennifer Byers, vice president of grassroots and chamber relations for the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, presented during the event and focused on the Minnesota workforce of 2030.

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Carrie Johnston, president of the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce, speaks during an economic development summit at the Historic Holmes Theatre on May 7, 2021. (Michael Achterling / Tribune)
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The Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce just concluded a big week of community outreach.

With their economic development summit at the Historic Holmes Theatre on May 7 and their annual membership meeting at the Holiday Inn on May 12, the chamber used the events to engage, and connect, with community members in-person and introduce their new incoming board chair, Travis Stone.

"There's a lot of challenges to overcome, and it's actually a really good thing to grow from, I think," said Stone.

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Travis Stone, incoming board chair for the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce, speaks during the group's annual meeting at the Holiday Inn on May 7, 2021. (Michael Achterling / Tribune)

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The meeting was a connecting event for the nearly 30 members who all introduced themselves and described the current state of their businesses, and industries, in the area.

"This board has really taken the time to look at what the chamber is doing, where the future is moving us, what is the pandemic doing, and what does the community need," said Carrie Johnston, president of the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce. "We know there are some themes, not only for the Detroit Lakes region, but for the world, for the nation, things like workforce, housing, daycare, transportation, some really big things. We know we can't solve the world problem, but how can we move it, how can we make sure that Detroit Lakes region is competitive."

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Johnston also teased the chamber's 100th birthday, which will include a celebratory event in the fall.
Many of the members shared their frustration with being unable to find employees to fill vacancies within their businesses.

Becker County has more than 900 residents on the unemployment rolls, 5.3%, for the month of March, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development .

Some of the members said they want the chamber to look into creating a regional job posting website for their members so residents would have an easier time finding jobs within the community.

"Business is booming and there's tons of work out there," said Stone, who is also a owner of Action Fabricating, a pressing, laser-cutting, welding and powder coating service provider. "Looking forward to another fun year with the chamber, 100th year, and I know there are some plans in place to make it a really exciting year for everybody in the community."

During the chamber's economic development summit, Jennifer Byers, vice president of grassroots and chamber relations for the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, presented how the state's chamber organization will see the employment landscape of Minnesota in 2030 .

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Jennifer Byers, vice president of grassroots and chamber relations for the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, speaks during an economic development summit at the Historic Holmes Theatre on May 7, 2021. (Michael Achterling / Tribune)

"Minnesota's core working-age population is projected to grow at 0.1% annually," said Byers, during the presentation. "And employment growth is expected to grow at just 0.3%."

She also pointed out the employment vacancies many businesses are facing are expected to continue into the next decade as job availability continues to outpace the workforce.

Byers highlighted the continuing growing diversity of the Minnesota workforce and encouraged members, if they already hadn't done so, to start implementing ways to make workplaces diversity a hiring priority.

"Populations of color grew 32 times faster than non-Hispanic whites in the last decade," she said.

Also, at the summit, Joshua Omang, the new principal of Detroit Lakes High School, showcased the school's academy programs, which take students out of the classroom and put them into the community for internships for their junior, and senior, years. He said the academies help students acquire real-life skills, instead of wasting time at college trying to figure out what they want to major in.

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Joshua Omang, the new principal of Detroit Lakes High School, speaks about the schools academy programs during an economic development summit at the Historic Holmes Theatre on May 7, 2021. (Michael Achterling / Tribune)

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"We're trying to bring industry into schools and school into industry," said Omang. "Not a lot of schools are willing to do this … so we want people from industry talking to our kids, coming in as guest teachers."

Omang said by giving students career field experience in high school, the student will then be more informed as to what school, or major, they would need to complete to achieve those goals.

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Carrie Johnston, president of the Detroit Lakes Regional Chamber of Commerce, speaks during the group's annual meeting at the Holiday Inn on May 7, 2021. (Michael Achterling / Tribune)

Multimedia News Lead Reporter
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