Opinion

State Grants Are Money Well-spent

Editorial

It’s one of those headlines that would probably get lost amid others on the business pages of the newspaper, or even this publication — about mergers, acquisitions, new CEOs, the market’s seemingly endless ups and downs, and even the price of gasoline.

But it shouldn’t.

‘Baker-Polito Administration Awards $8.5 Million in Workforce Training Grants’ doesn’t seem like big news, and to most, it probably isn’t. But in many ways, it’s huge news for this state and the individual companies that make up its diverse, technology-driven, and talent-dependent economy.

In other words, this is money well-spent. Make that very well-spent.

To explain, let’s look beyond the headline.

That $8.5 million, awarded a few weeks ago, will go to dozens of companies of all sizes. Locally, the list includes everything from small technology companies, like Westfield-based EpiCenter, to giant retailers, like Big Y Foods, to mid-sized service providers, like East Longmeadow-based Tiger Press.

These companies may be different in many respects, but they share a few distinct qualities: they’re smart, because they realize the inherent value of training employees in an age when technology continues to advance and new and better methods for doing business emerge, and they look upon training as an investment, not an expense item to be avoided or put off until when the skies are bluer. And they’re resourceful, because they applied for grants made available through the state’s Workforce Training Fund to help make that wise and usually sizable investment in training more palatable and stretch further.

A program of the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, the training program provides grants up to $250,000 to companies of any size to pay for workforce training over a two-year period. Grants are awarded to projects that will upgrade workers’ skills, increase productivity, and enhance the competitiveness of Bay State businesses. Grants are matched dollar for dollar by the award recipients.

The grants are used to not only train existing employees, but bring on additional workers and thus fuel additional growth for the participating companies.

At Sound Seal Inc. in Agawam, for example, $168,000 will be awarded to train 59 workers, with an expectation that six jobs will be added by 2018. At Valley Steel Stamp in Greenfield, $123,120 was awarded to train 27 workers, with that same number expected to be added by 2018. At Tapestry Health in Florence, $58,585 was awarded to train 90 workers. Monson Savings Bank was awarded $58,675 to train 167 workers, with two additional jobs expected by 2018. The list goes on.

Beyond the numbers, what’s important to note is what they mean — that hundreds of additional workers will be better-equipped to handle the increasingly challenging jobs of today’s technology-fueled economy, and more businesses, including manufacturers, will be better able to compete with companies around the globe.

As we’ve said on many occasions, the biggest challenge facing area businesses isn’t interest rates or consumer confidence or the price of oil — it’s the skills gap that is pervading each and every sector of the economy, and the ensuing, and ongoing, need for talented workers.

As mentioned at the top, ‘Baker-Polito Administration Awards $8.5 Million in Workforce Training Grants’ is not a grabber when it comes to business-story headlines. But it should be.

It should grab the attention of everyone who does business in the Commonwealth — and wants to do it better.

This is truly money well-spent.

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