State has given APC workers $210,000

The outlook continues to improve for Austin Packaging Co. and its laid off workers.

Minneapolis-based Bellisio Foods Inc. bought APC for $6.1 million last week, and now the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development has confirmed it is lending a financial hand to the roughly 75 workers displaced by the closing of APC’s pizza division.

Annie Welch, principal planner with the dislocated worker and adult program at DEED, said Thursday that the state department allocated grants to Austin’s Workforce Development totaling $210,000. The funds will assist workers with skills training, resumes and job searching.

“All of the funding goes to serve those workers,” Welch said.

The first of two grants, in the amount of $10,000, was made on March 25 to tend to any immediate services Workforce Development could quickly render for the employees.

“We set up what we call an early re-adjustment emergency,” Welch said.

Afterward, a $200,000 grant geared toward serving 50 workers, was put into effect April 1. While APC laid off about 75 workers, not all of them will seek Workforce Development’s help. Workers were told at a company-wide meeting in March the assistance is available and optional.

Workforce Development’s efforts include networking help, workshops and job searching, plus one-on-one training with a professional.

“They will do career counseling with very qualified counselors,” Welch said.

Bill Hahn, Workforce Development’s dislocated worker program coordinator, said between 25 and 30 workers are seeking help. Workforce Development will continue offering assistance through June 30, 2014.

“We can keep enrolling people all the way up until that date,” Hahn said. “I encourage people to call the workforce center in Austin.”

Any unused portion of the grant will be returned to DEED, he added.

Hahn said 50 percent of the grant money needs to be used for training. The other portion can be used for one-time needs to help the workers navigate their transition between jobs. For example, Workforce Development can help laid-off workers get a handle on their utilities bills or repair costs to their car.

“We could use some money to help them for transportation,” Hahn said.

So far, Workforce Development has not used any of the larger grant, which it plans to tap in the fall, Hahn said. It has used the $10,000 grant for its staffing costs and the initial outreach it made to APC workers.

Some workers are waiting to see what will happen now that Bellisio Foods has purchased APC. Bellisio officials said the company will keep APC in Austin, and may expand its operations and hire more workers. Bellisio hasn’t decided if it will rename APC.

The sale is a positive sign for Austin, Hahn said.

“It’s absolutely tremendous that that was bought by somebody,” he said. “It should stabilize things.”

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