Lynch seeks fed grants for North Country workers

Governor John Lynch has asked for approval of two separate grants totaling up to $13 million to upgrade worker skills, create a northern New Hampshire manufacturing innovation program, and to initiate new training programs to diversify business sectors in New Hampshire’s rural counties.

If approved by the U.S. Labor Department, the state’s Workforce Opportunity Council would administer the grants.

The grant application announcements came only days after the announcement that the Groveton Paperboard plant would be shutting down in March, putting more than 100 employees out of work.

“These grant requests are aimed at supporting our ongoing efforts to boost and diversify the North Country’s economy while preserving its character and traditions,” Lynch said. “If approved, these grants will bolster our efforts to ensure that North Country workers have the skills needed to compete in today’s economy and support efforts to attract new businesses to the region.”

The grant requests s are the result of collaboration among many of the region’s businesses, educators and economic development organizations.

One grant request, titled “North Country Regional Rural Development Project,” asks for $9,110,847 in training and educational programs from kindergarten through high school, including: an integrated technology program; seminars by local business leaders for high school and college students; expansion of a mobile diesel training program for off-road and heavy equipment technologies; expansion of the N.H. Community Technical College at Berlin’s Center for Training and Business Development; retraining for adult workers in new skill sets; internships; and the development of new entrepreneurial strategies for small businesses and individuals.

The second grant request, titled “Rural Counties Region Initiative for Innovation,” asks for $4,559,504 and would offer specialized training for North Country manufacturers through the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and create a partnership with the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network Program to design new products for manufacturers

A network of North Country manufacturers would work together on new products.

Lynch said more than 30 area organizations, including schools and businesses, contributed to the grant proposals.

The U.S. Department of Labor is expected to make a decision on the grant awards sometime next month. — NHBR STAFF

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