Governor Steve Bullock today announced that the State of Montana has awarded nearly $1 million in federal POWER grant awards to assist the community of Colstrip with workforce planning and worker training, and to ensure the successful transition of the region to a diversified economy.
“We must ensure that Colstrip and other coal-impacted communities remain vibrant and viable areas of our state,” said Governor Bullock. “This opportunity to help Montanans be successful in a diversified economy will further stabilize and continue to strengthen the region’s economy now and into the future.”
In response to the decline in coal mining employment and potential long-term impacts in the region, the Montana Department of Labor & Industry (MTDLI) applied for the POWER grant through the U.S. Department of Labor’s Dislocated Worker program to provide support for the local Colstrip community to achieve their economic development goals with a skilled and trained workforce.
“These grants are essential to make sure the workforce of coal-impacted communities has the skills and training necessary for Montana to sustain our economic strength,” said Labor & Industry Commissioner Galen Hollenbaugh. “We look forward to working with community partners across the region to achieve their economic development goals.”
Recipients of the first round of POWER grant awards include:
- Dawson Community College - $200,000
- MT AFL-CIO - $292,746
- Miles Community College/Chief Dull Knife College (offeror and sub-offeror) – $494,562
The funding covers workforce training for Colstrip and other communities in Eastern Montana affected by coal-related layoffs, including the Northern Cheyenne, Crow, and Fort Peck Assiniboine & Sioux reservations. The dollars will go directly towards training over 1,100 workers in 23 eastern and southcentral Montana counties for new jobs in a diversified economy.
In August 2017, Governor Bullock announced that the State of Montana had secured $2 million in funding immediately available through the POWER grant for planning efforts and for workforce training in the area. Additional funding will go towards sub-grants to local and statewide entities to support curriculum development or innovative workforce training consistent with the Colstrip economic development plan.
A total of over $4.6 million could be made available to the State of Montana through the POWER grant.
MTDLI has expanded capacity in the Registered Apprenticeship program to recruit more businesses to be sponsors in the coal-impacted region, and hired a tribal workforce coordinator to work with dislocated workers on the Northern Cheyenne, Crow, and Fort Peck reservations.
“With some significant impacts on the horizon, it is encouraging to see some productive collaboration going on between the state and federal agencies, labor organizations, higher education and economic development groups in Coal Country,” said Jim Atchison, Executive Director of SE MT Development based in Colstrip. “When these impacts hit southeast Montana, every community in the state will feel the pinch. These grant funds will certainly help ease the pain and keep Montana workers in Montana.”
"This POWER Grant award will help make sure the communities and workers in Montana's coal country are better equipped for changes in the energy sector,” said Al Ekblad of the Montana AFL-CIO. “This funding is an important first step in that direction, so Montanans in coal-impacted areas have the job skill training they need to continue putting food on the table and can pay their bills.”
“I’m optimistic that we have some time and possibilities to look forward to,” said Rosebud County Commissioner and Colstrip Community Impact Advisory Group participant Doug Martens. “We don’t have to do this by ourselves and this grant funding will help. We need to concentrate on the whole region and not only one economic area.”