By Kristina Hein-Landin, Marketing & Brand Management Director
Filling the gaps that exist in our local workforce is key to the economic growth of our community, and a solution to lifting people out of poverty. With one in nine people living in poverty, and currently nearly 20,000 jobs available in the Fargo Industrial Park, an existing barrier consistently stands in the way of individuals gaining employment – and that is reliable transportation.
Eliminating the barrier of transportation for individuals seeking employment will empower employers to attract and retain employees – and that is the goal of the United Way Workforce Transportation Project.
FROM THE EMPLOYER PERSPECTIVE
According to the demographic data provided by MATBUS, there are currently more than 19,588 jobs available in the Fargo Industrial Park, which includes more than 40 employers, such as Cardinal IG, John Deere Electronic Solutions, Northern Pipe Products and Tecton Products.
In a recent survey facilitated by United Way to employers in the Industrial Park, two-thirds of respondents said that reliable transportation would benefit employee retention at their business. “There are a number of individuals that would be great employees at our business, but they don’t have transportation,” said Kelsey Kasten, Human Resource Manager at Cardinal IG, one of the more than 40 employers in the Industrial Park, the area north of Main Avenue and west of Interstate 29 in Fargo.
The last time public transportation was available in this area was in the 1990s, nearly 30 years ago. Before the United Way Workforce Transportation Project, in order for an individual to fill one of the thousands of open positions at an employer in the Industrial Park, they would have to walk to their employer from the nearest bus stop, which is 1.5 miles away, a 30-minute walk and a significant barrier for potential employees.
OPENING NEW DOORS FOR PEOPLE SEEKING EMPLOYMENT
In a recent survey to professionals working to assist individuals in finding employment, 82 percent of respondents reported that their clients do not have reliable transportation to get to work and 100 percent agree that reliable transportation would be a game-changer for their clients.
“Giving employees and employers this option is exciting and applauded by those of us at Job Service North Dakota who see people every day who experience difficulties with employment due to a lack of adequate transportation. This is a significant barrier to attaining and retaining employment and causes workers to be absent and late because existing public transportation routes and schedules often don’t meet the needs of all employees and employers,” said Carey Fry, Workforce Center Manager, Job Service North Dakota.
COLLABORATIVE SUPPORT FROM THE FARGO CITY COMMISSION
Over the past year, United Way led more than 70 meetings with community partners, businesses and government entities to identify barriers for the local workforce, and the issue of transportation continued to be a consistent theme for both employers and employment-seekers alike.
On June 3 of this year, representatives from United Way of Cass-Clay and MATBUS presented the plan to leaders at the Fargo City Commission meeting. “United Way of Cass-Clay is proud to collaborate with MATBUS to provide a solution to one of our community’s most complex issues. This will have a positive impact on our business community, and it is an innovative and lasting solution to lifting people out of poverty, one of our bold goals,” said Thomas Hill, VP Community Impact for United Way of Cass-Clay.
The diverse partners including MATBUS, the City of Fargo, the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Corporation, The Chamber, Cornerstone Bank, FM Area Foundation, Microsoft, the Otto Bremer Trust, West Central Initiative and private investors, helped with the financial aspect of this United Way-led project, which was a major differentiator in its success.
“The City of Fargo has been trying to do this for years. Thank you to United Way for being the catalyst to get it started. In the past, the City of Fargo has tried to get transportation out to the Industrial Park, and it is too difficult with the shift changes at different times. This is a unique opportunity, and city leaders have to have vision – a part of that vision is solving a need for employers in the Industrial Park, who are begging for employees who do not have a way to get to these good-paying jobs. This is a multiple win, and I am thankful to be a part of it,” said Dave Piepkorn, Fargo Deputy Mayor.
INNOVATION IMPLEMENTED THROUGH TAPRIDE TECHNOLOGY
Transportation services begin in August, via TapRide, an on-demand technology platform provided by MATBUS that allows riders to receive a “curb-to-curb ride” via access to existing main MATBUS systems. Operation times can be adjusted to meet the demands of riders and the system will follow the same pay structure as current services, with an adult fare set at $1.50, and a 30-day pass for $40.
“We have seen the success of the TapRide service in and around the NDSU campus as a cost-effective way to provide public transportation to our community. The collaboration with United Way has been, and will continue to be beneficial as we implement this service in the Industrial Park,” said Matthew Peterson, MATBUS Fargo Assistant Transit Director.
“The City of Fargo has been trying to do this for years. Thank you to United Way for being the catalyst to get it started. This is a unique opportunity, and city leaders have to have vision – a part of that vision is solving a need for employers in the Industrial Park, who are begging for employees who do not have a way to get to these good-paying jobs. This is a multiple win.”
– Dave Piepkorn, Fargo Deputy Mayor
BRINGING THE WORKFORCE TO OUR EMPLOYERS
“A main economic target of the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation is primary-sector companies – those who bring new wealth to our region from a larger, regional, national and international customer base. One of the leading challenges is workforce, and we value the collaboration and partnership with United Way on this issue,” said Joe Raso, President and CEO of the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation.
“United Way is a powerful community facilitator. They have the unique ability to connect the right people and the right organizations to solve difficult community issues. They take a strategic approach to solving complex problems, and they keep driving to get things done to make our communities better,” said Chris Barta, Director of Operations at Marvin, a primary sector business.
Collaboration is the key to solving complex issues in our community, and it is vital to creating lasting social change. The United Way Workforce Transportation Project will change the game for many individuals and families in our community, as well as employers seeking employees for their workforce.
This is the Power of Community. Realized.