With state leaders poised to give away tens of millions of dollars in funding for career and technical centers, Grand Forks leaders are making haste — and are looking for all the help they can get.
Enter Janell Regimbal.
Regimbal, a former Lutheran Social Services executive, launched her own consulting firm this summer, and has since been hired by the local Economic Development Corporation to assist with Grand Forks’ race to apply for state funding. Community leaders are hoping to win up to $10 million in grant funding to back a new career and tech center, and are eyeing a pair of deadlines: Oct. 1 and Dec. 1.
Regimbal will play a supporting role in the effort. But leaders involved in the project say she’ll be an extra pair of competent hands, helping make sure that the push for more funding — which includes input from five subcommittees’ worth of local leaders — goes smoothly.
"I'm going to call it that back-room logistics stuff. Making sure communication flows between groups, making sure there's good minutes,” Regimbal said. She’ll be an expert staff member helping local leaders make the best pitch they can for state funding.
Keith Lund, the EDC president and CEO, said it’s not clear what the value of Regimbal’s contract will be; she’s receiving $75 an hour for her services. Regimbal said this week that she’s currently spending about 20 hours a week on efforts related to the career and technical center and that her agreement with the EDC lasts through the end of the year.
"We really hired Janell for her project management expertise,” Lund said.
The career and technical center would fill an important gap in the local economy by putting students in closer contact with regional employers at a place where they can learn skills directly pertaining to jobs in the community. It’s not quite a community college or a trade school, but a way that city leaders say they can help grow and retain the local workforce.
And a lagging workforce has been among Grand Forks’ top concerns for years. Federal economic figures show that the size of the civilian labor force is still at roughly 1990s levels, while Bismarck and Fargo-area labor forces have grown.
Becca Cruger, the EDC’s workforce development manager, is one of the project’s closest advisers. In an email to reporters this week, she announced that the new center will be named the “Career Impact Academy.” She added that community leaders closely involved with the project had narrowed the potential sites for the project to three: at Red River High School, the former Holiday Inn and Suites location on the north side, and the city’s industrial park.
The application for state funding will be led by the local school district.
“I know our group is not interested in sending something that we feel isn’t a strong application,” said Eric Ripley, the director of CTE and technology for Grand Forks Public Schools. “We know that there’s two rounds of applications. … We’re pushing optimistically toward Oct. 1, but we want to make sure that we’re ready to go. And we have Dec. 1 as the second deadline to be ready for.”