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Local businesses use InternGF program to provide paid internships

The program, now in its fourth year, is designed to create internships for local businesses that pay their candidates a fair wage, as well as increasing workforce recruitment and retention among the businesses that participate.

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Local businesses continue to benefit from UND’s Center for Innovation and the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corporation's InternGF program, which announced it has awarded funding to several Grand Forks companies.

InternGF matches UND students looking for local internship opportunities with employers, most of which are looking for marketing, digital media or customer service support.

The program, now in its fourth year, is designed to create internships for local businesses that pay their candidates a fair wage, as well as increasing workforce recruitment and retention among the businesses that participate. It also offers up to $3,500 to offset an intern’s salary. Eligible businesses are early- to mid-range startup companies or EDC members, and each can apply for up to two interns each year. Startup companies are eligible for a match of 50%, and EDC members are eligible for a 33% match.

The Other Half Coffee & Taphouse, a new Grand Forks business, is using the InternGF program to employ a marketing intern. Co-owner Sandi Luck said it is early in the process, but she believes in the program.

“I’m a believer in interns, and hopefully seeing them not only helps us be successful, but we also can mentor them and help them see what it’s like in the real world to do some of this work,” Luck said.

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The Other Half’s marketing intern will work 15 hours a week helping promote the business. Luck said the intern has not yet been selected from UND’s pool.

“It’s well worth it for us,” Luck said. “We’ll obviously choose a marketing student who can help us with not only traditional marketing, but also some public relations work. Being a new business, there are lots of opportunities for us to get out there.”

The Other Half would not have been able to hire a paid intern to help with marketing the business if not for InternGF.

“It really wasn’t in our budget until something like this came up,” Luck said. “I think our first priority almost always is the service staff."

Luck had an intern through InternGF last year at Bully Brew, and she said she was more than happy with the experience. Not only did the coffee shop’s intern help while he was there, but his work affected business long after he left.

“It was fantastic,” Luck said. “It was great. He (the intern) did campaigns and developed some programming that we had used later on in the semester after he had already even left. So, he gave us some good ideas and did some research for us.”

Another business benefitting from InternGF is Timber & Ash Designs, a first-time applicant that has already hired a “sawdust maker.” Owner Jacob Barney described what that position entails.

“He’s kind of a do-it-all, entry-level woodworker -- that’s what my best description would be,” Barney said. “... But mainly, he’s building furniture. As a small business, we don’t have as much expendable cash to pay someone the rates that Walmart or Amazon would pay. We’re using this program to match that to help that person get up and running.”

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Barney said it only took him about 10 minutes to fill out the application to get started with InternGF, and he recommends other small businesses look into participating in the future.

“It’s something that’s a great asset, especially to small businesses, in my opinion,” Barney said. “Most small businesses don’t have a ton of time or money to spend on getting somebody trained, so being able to take a little of that burden off helps a ton.”

Becca Cruger, workforce development manager with the EDC and manager of InternGF, is proud of how far the program has come since its inception.

“Being able to start 47 new internships that didn’t exist before 2017 is huge in terms of introducing college students to the real career opportunities that exist in the Grand Forks region,” Cruger said.

One of the program’s main goals is to keep UND students in the region when looking for post-college jobs, Cruger said. She said introducing them to local internships increases the likelihood that they stick around.

“I used to work as the assistant director of the Pancratz Career Development Center at UND’s College of Business, so I frequently had students who would walk in my door looking for an internship in X, Y or Z, and I would have to send them down to Fargo or Minneapolis,” Cruger said. “That’s a huge detriment to Grand Forks, because we know that students, once they get introduced to a company, are much more likely to seek out careers within that company. If we’re sending students down to Fargo or Minneapolis, then we’re really losing out on that workforce pipeline.”

Jacob Holley joined the Grand Forks Herald as its business reporter in June 2021.

Holley's beat at the Grand Forks Herald is broad and includes a variety of topics, including small business, national trends and more.

Readers can reach Holley at jholley@gfherald.com.Follow him on Twitter @JakeHolleyMedia.
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