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JDA discusses workforce retention, assistance programs

By Staff | Dec 13, 2019

The Rugby Job Development Authority board reviewed and voted to approve 20 applications to their student loan assistance program in their regular meeting held Monday.

The JDA had advertised the program in recent months to Rugby residents working in the community.

JDA Executive Director Liz Heisey told the board, “I think (student loan assistance) is one of our most tangible, relevant programs that we have going on at the JDA right now because our biggest challenge in Rugby right now with the business community is workforce expansion and retention. And that’s the way we can have the biggest impact in the community.”

One application for assistance involving JDA matching funds with the North Dakota Career Builders program was also approved.

Another application was tabled for further review by the board.

The North Dakota Career Builders program is a state scholarship and student loan repayment program for workers in “high need and emerging occupations” that matches private sector funds in amounts up to $17,000, according to a North Dakota University System website.

The JDA also approved amendments to their 2019 budget, which Heisey told the board would have “a projected ending fund balance of $366,000 instead of $258,000.”

“Keep in mind, we’ll have to make some more amendments at the next meeting for the end of the year,” Heisey added.

The board also amended the JDA’s 2020 budget to allow for more applications for student loan assistance.

“The more applicants we can help out, the more businesses we can help,” Heisey noted.

The loan assistance programs require that applicants must be employed in Rugby and demonstrate a commitment to live in the community for at least “the duration of the program,” according to the JDA website.

“They (the applicants) are living here, they’re working here, they’re playing here. Hopefully, they’re going to stay and help build and grow our community,” Heisey said.

Rugby Mayor Sue Steinke told the board, “I think this is an excellent program and a good use of our funds to bring in people and retain them in the community.”

Heisey said after the board voted to amend the budget, “I did want to point out our ending fund balance will still be more than what we had anticipated.”

“We’re moving in the right direction,” Steinke agreed.

Heisey told the group more information was available at www.rugbyjda.com by clicking on the “incentives” drop down menu.

Heisey also shared the results of a liveability survey the JDA had invited community businesses and residents to participate in.

“Not all questions were answered,” Heisey noted. “Some of them had 390 responses, some of them had 20 responses and some had 347 responses.”

Surveys were emailed to community businesses, the Chamber of Commerce and county and city government agencies. A link to the survey also appeared on the Rugby JDA Facebook page.

“The survey definitely showed that retail shopping is one of our biggest wants in the community,” Heisey noted. “More restaurants, more entertainment, more year-round activities like a year-round pool. There were some comments about more activities for seniors, more activities for youth – that seems to be what most people want.”

Heisey added, “Friendly people, good schools, safety, the hospital, low cost of living and small-town living were the top benefits for people living in Rugby. Some things we need to work on were, on average, only 39 percent felt welcomed into the community. That’s one thing we need to work on in the community.”

In other business, the JDA approved November bills and financials and voted to retain board officers for another year.

The JDA also discussed and tabled a motion to move regular meeting dates to the second Wednesday of each month. The next regular JDA meeting will be held Wednesday, Jan. 8.

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