Duluth Area Chamber Foundation Awarded $50,000 to Help Support Local Workforce Challenges

Duluth Area Chamber Foundation

(Duluth, MN) — December 29th, 2023– There’s good news for those seeking new career opportunities in the new year, as well as for local businesses looking to hire. TheDuluth Area Chamber Foundation Logo Duluth Area Chamber Foundation is working to help connect potential employees with local businesses to help keep and attract workforce talent in the northland. Thanks to a new grant opportunity, those connections can also soon include financial assistance in the form of grants up to $1,000 per potential employee seeking to work for a local business.

The Duluth Area Chamber Foundation has been awarded $50,000 in Opportunity Funds from Wisconsin Business Development (WBD) Inc. to help address workforce challenges in the NE Minnesota and NW Wisconsin region. WBD recently expanded their footprint to include all of Wisconsin, Minnesota and a portion of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The goal of WBD’s Opportunity Funds is to Grow Businesses, Create Jobs and Build Communities. WBD and the Duluth Area Chamber Foundation are now strategically partnering to help support local businesses, local potential employees and to help connect the two and remove barriers of potential employment.

This work is well-aligned with the mission and vision of the Duluth Area Chamber Foundation and is in response to results from a survey commissioned by the Duluth Area Chamber Foundation in the fall of 2023. When local residents were asked about their top concerns and where they’d like the Chamber Foundation to focus and prioritize efforts, they identified housing, downtown safety, taxes and workforce challenges as the top concerns. While the Duluth Area Chamber and Duluth Chamber Foundation are actively working on all those issues and in all of those areas, and more, the Duluth Chamber Foundation has stepped up even more on workforce development efforts, including working closely with WBD, Inc. to apply for and be awarded this initial round of Opportunity Funds.

“We continue to hear from Duluth Area Chamber members and local businesses about workforce challenges and needs,” said Daniel Fanning, executive director of the Duluth Chamber Foundation and Vice President of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce. “Thanks to our partnership and strong relationship with WBD, we’re excited to announce we have received this initial $50,000 in funding to help proactively address workforce needs, remove potential barriers to employment and help make connections between potential employees and local businesses seeking to hire. We believe this is just the first step of a steadfast commitment to help support local employers and help retain and recruit workforce talent in our region. We will continue to partner with a variety of local employers and seek to grow funding opportunities to support these ongoing efforts, which can truly be a win/win for potential employees, local business and our local economy.”

Starting in early 2024, the Duluth Area Chamber Foundation will offer an online application on their website for those seeking funding to gain employment in the local business community. Funding can be requested for required training, shorter-term certificates, testing and other potential barriers to employment and will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the Foundation’s grant committee.

“The beauty of these funds are that they are flexible and can be tailored to meet the needs of local employers and potential employees. For example, if a local manufacturer is seeking to hire a welder and requires applicants have a welding certificate, these funds can help an interested applicant earn that certificate. If a local company is seeking to hire a professional truck driver, and applicants are required to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL), we can help with that. We can help provide funding for required training such as certified nursing assistant (CNA) training as an example, earning a high school diploma, finishing a college degree, and other obstacles and potential barriers that can prevent potential employees from being eligible for local employment within our business community. From working with healthcare providers, to our friends and partners in the local skilled trades, manufacturers, small businesses, larger corporations and everything in between, we are ready and willing to do all we can to help support local businesses and potential employees,” continued Fanning. “The Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce and Chamber Foundation have strong relationships with the local business community, with local labor leaders, and are a in a great position to help bridge some of these gaps with potential employees. Working collaboratively with a variety of other local organizations and community partners in a variety of areas and communities, we’ll strive to put these funds to the best and most impactful use possible while the funding lasts. We are grateful for the partnership with WBD, as well as with all our Duluth Area Chamber members and businesses/organizations throughout the region. Together, we’ll continue to effectively address workforce and other challenges and opportunities facing our business community.”

More information and the online application will be available on the Chamber Foundation’s website by mid-January. Local businesses looking to potentially partner with the Chamber Foundation are welcome to contact dfanning@duluthchamber.com for more information.


The voice of business since 1870, the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce serves as the premier advocate for commerce and industry by facilitating collaboration between the leaders of business, government, education, labor and the greater community. The Chamber, currently with approximately 1,000 members, actively creates innovative opportunities for business to advance within local and regional economies. To learn more, please visit: duluthchamber.com.

The Chamber Foundation was launched in 2022 as a 501(c)(3) arm of the Duluth Area Chamber to open the door for state and federal grants, private tax-deductible contributions and other funding for which the Chamber of Commerce might otherwise have been ineligible. This structure allows the Foundation to direct those funds to where they can have the most impact for Chamber members and in support of our local business community. To learn more, please visit: duluthchamber.com/foundation.

WBD, Inc.’s mission is to assist small businesses in gaining access to capital in order to grow their businesses, create jobs and build communities. WBD, Inc. helps businesses finance owner occupied commercial real estate utilizing the SBA 504 loan program. WBD partners with local lenders to help provide affordable, fixed-rate, long-term (up to 25 years) with less money down. Serving all of Wisconsin, Minnesota and a portion of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, WBD’s portfolio is over $1 Billion. As a nonprofit organization WBD reinvests in other economic development activities in line with its mission to grow businesses, create jobs and build communities through direct grants to nonprofit organizations. For more information on WBD’s lending and mission work visit WBD.org.

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