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Lay-offs mount throughout area

Hundreds are jobless in Central Minnesota, and local Workforce Centers are at the front lines in dealing with the fallout.

It's almost impossible to calculate the number of workers who have been laid off, but along and near the Highway 10 corridor, it has been substantial.

"We're going to be busy," said Darla Hoemberg, a team leader at the Wadena Workforce Center. "There are a lot of lay-offs; companies are downsizing, and they are working very lean."

"We've never seen so many mass dislocations in this region," said Vicki Lederbrand, human resources planner for Rural MNCEP. It's the most challenging time she has experienced in her 20 years in the field of employment training.

"Mass dislocations are defined as lay-offs of 50 or more," said Lederbrand, a New York Mills resident who works at the Detroit Lakes CEP office.

More than 200 lay-offs in boat manufacturing alone

Listed here are just a few examples from the region:

----144 jobs lost at the Lund Boat plant in New York Mills.

----Little Falls based Crestliner, also owned by Lund's parent company, Brunswick, let 45 workers go--identified as permanent.

----Detroit Lakes-based S.J. Rhombus, an electronics firm, eliminated 40 jobs.

----Snappy tools laid off 30.

----60 to 70 jobs at a Long Prairie printing plant.

----About 60 at Wadena's Timber Roots, a truss-building firm.

----Another boat manufacturer in the region, Larson, in Little Falls, experienced lay-offs, though they are listed as temporary.

----Team Industries, based in Detroit Lakes, has laid off workers--most notably at the Park Rapids and Bagley plants.

"There are various places that have laid off a few here and there--which add up. The number of unemployed in the region is more than we've seen in a very long time," said Hoemberg. She also noted that many smaller companies in the area have shut down--such as Wadena Inn and Grill and Verndale Grocery.

Lay-offs have "ripple effect" in rural economies

In rural areas, with economies that are often less diversified, the rise in unemployment has more pronounced "ripple effects," notes Lederbrand.

When larger employers start laying off in rural areas, there are less dollars flowing into retail, medical and other sectors, she added.

Commuting patterns add another variable to the rural employment landscape.

"Employers are drawing people from as much as a 50- mile radius for people coming to those jobs," said Lederbrand.

In the case of the Brunswick boat lay-offs, it affected nearly 200 employees from a multi-county area--from Detroit Lakes to Little Falls.

Lund, Brunswick lay-offs result in $607,000 grant

Because of the proximity of the Brunswick plants and the number of displaced workers, Lund in New York Mills and Crestliner in Little Falls, the Workforce Center and CEP qualified for a $607,000 federal grant for retraining and reemployment.

"It paints a negative picture, but does that mean there's no hope?" asked Lederbrand. "Absolutely not. There is always life after lay-offs."

Among other services, employees can receive complete tuition coverage for up to two years.

In order to receive the tuition benefit, workers must choose an occupation or trade that is defined as "in demand."

Despite the down economy, there are jobs available in some fields, including nursing, truck driving and welding.

Other services available through the Workforce office include:

---Job search classes

---Resume writing

---Computer skills training

---Career assessments

---Online classes

There is also a staff available to assist with filing claims with the state, according to Hoemberg, team leader at the Wadena Workforce Center.

"We try to get them on a path of knowing what they want to do, where they should look, whether they should move, or whether they should wait until spring," said Hoemberg. "We give them the tools to help make decisions as they go forward."

Some workers will look for temporary employment, with the intention of starting school next fall, noted Hoemberg.

Lederbrand describes the various displaced worker programs as "wonderful...and a best kept secret."

"The main goal is to get people back into the workforce as soon as possible," said Lederbrand. "For some, it's a new career; for some, they just need help and information. It means different things for different people."

An "individual employment plan" can be customized for each displaced worker, she added. This includes an assessment of the individual's aptitudes and abilities--from which an occupation can be matched.

Losing job takes emotional toll

Most workers, after being laid off "aren't angry, just stunned," said Lederbrand.

"We understand; we've been there," she added. "One thing we understand well is the emotional toll of losing a job."

If necessary, Workforce staff can refer misplaced workers to other agencies and specialists--including mental health professionals, if that need exists.

"The biggest thing for displaced workers is the decision of what to do; that is probably the hardest thing," said Hoemberg. "Once they reach that decision, they move forward...We've seen many who are happy, renewed and excited...because they've chosen something they're excited about."