Interstate project could boost local jobs

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Frank Schultz
Friday, November 8, 2013

MADISON—Local legislators are hoping to steer local people to jobs on the Interstate 90/39 widening project.

The state Department of Transportation plans to hire an organization to provide training in construction-related job skills. The program would then provide a list of trained people to contractors who are looking to hire, said Sheila De Forest, a Beloit City Council member.

De Forest has been pushing to have the job-training center located in Beloit.

All the state legislators who represent Rock County sent a letter to the department secretary this week, encouraging him to locate the center in the county.

“Some potential trainees will have to travel regardless of where the training site is located, but the vast majority of those who could benefit … are in Rock County,” the legislators wrote.

The letter was signed by one Republican, Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, and four Democrats, Sen. Tim Cullen and representatives Deb Kolste, Andy Jorgensen and Janis Ringhand.

The state has training centers in Madison and the Kenosha-Racine area, but Rock County has missed out on training dollars in the past 10 years, De Forest said.

“And we're in greater need than ever, given our high unemployment rate," De Forest said.

It's not known how many jobs might result from the training, De Forest said.

“This is not a jobs guarantee program. It's a training program,” she said.

Bidding on the training contract ended this week, but the DOT does not immediately reveal information about the bids. De Forest said Community Action of Rock and Walworth Counties, with offices in Beloit, bid on the project.

Training would be in skills that contractors have said they are looking for, De Forest said.

The jobs generally pay well, De Forest said.

“Even flaggers are making decent, family-sustaining wages. And what's nice is, there is opportunity for advancement and promotion once they get a foot in door,” she said.

Training could start early in 2014.

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