June 05, 2019

The Route to Removing Barriers for Employment - United Way Helps Expand Transportation Services

One out of nine local people in Cass and Clay Counties are living in poverty. By 2020, our local workforce will need an additional 30,000 employees in our community. But individuals who hope to fill that workforce need face a significant barrier to gaining employment, and that’s reliable transportation.

According to the demographic data provided by MATBUS, there are currently more than 19,588 jobs available in the Fargo Industrial Park, the area north of Main Avenue and west of Interstate 29. But in order for an individual to fill one of thousands of open positions, they would have to walk to their employer from the nearest bus stop, 1.5 miles away. That’s a 30 minute walk after getting off the bus. The last time public transportation was available in this area was in the 1990’s, nearly 30 years ago.

Local service providers recognize this as a problem as well. A recent survey providers working to assist individuals in finding employment, housing and education, found that 82% of respondents reported that their clients do not have reliable transportation to get to work and 100% of the service providers agree that reliable transportation would be a game changer in their clients ability to obtaining employment and lift themselves out of poverty.

FROM AN EMPLOYER PERSPECTIVE

Reliable, public transportation to the Industrial Park will not only fulfill a long-standing need and eliminate an important barrier for individuals seeking employment, it will also empower employers to attain and maintain employees. A recent survey to employers in the Industrial Park found that two-thirds of respondents said that reliable transportation would benefit employee retention at their business. Take it from one of the more than 40 employers in the Industrial Park:

“There are a number of individuals that would be great employees (at our business), but they don’t have reliable transportation.” – Kelsey Kasten, Human Resource Manager at Cardinal IG

The Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation identified more than 20 businesses identified as primary sectors companies in the Industrial Park and more than 40 businesses such as, Marvin, Cardinal IG, John Deere Electronic Solutions, Northern Pipe Products, and Tecton Products. There are just some of the businesses in this area that would benefit from increased, reliable transportation in our community.

“A main economic target of the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation is primary-sector companies – those who bring new wealth to our region from a larger, regional, national and international customer base. One of the leading challenges is workforce, and many employees rely on public transportation. We value the collaboration and partnership with United Way on this issue, and support the effort to increase reliable transportation services for employees working in the Industrial Park,” said Joe Raso, President & CEO of the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation.

A COMMUNITY COLLABORATION

Over the past 12 months, United Way led more than seventy meetings with community partners, businesses and government entities to identify barriers for the local workforce, and the issue of reliable transportation continued to be a consistent theme for both employers and employment seekers alike.

After months of conversations and working to find solutions to this issue, representatives from United Way of Cass-Clay and MATBUS received approval from the Fargo City Commission on the United Way-led project,. The approval of this project allows collaborating partners to provide public transportation for employees working in the Industrial Park and will help our community meet the demands of a rapidly growing workforce. (Collaborating partners on the United Way Workforce Transportation Project include MATBUS, the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Corporation, and the City of Fargo. In addition, Microsoft has generously invested to support this service in the implementation of this project.)

“United Way of Cass-Clay is proud to collaborate with MATBUS to provide a solution to one of our community’s most complex issues – transportation for individuals to attain and maintain employment. Increasing access to transportation for individuals in our community will have a positive impact on our businesses community, and is an innovative and lasting solution to lifting people out of poverty,” said Thomas Hill, Community Impact Director for United Way of Cass- Clay. This collaborative work is part of United Way’s Bold Community Goal to Lift People Out of Poverty

THE ROUTE TO REMOVING BARRIERS

So how will this project work? Public transportation will be provided by MATBUS via TapRide, which is an innovative, on-demand bus service that allows riders to receive a “curb-to-curb ride” via access to existing main MATBUS systems, and operation times can be adjusted to meet the demands of riders. The TapRide system will follow the same pay structure as current MATBUS services. For example, adult fare is $1.50, and a 30-day pass is $40. Community members will be able to utilize the TapRide transportation services beginning in August of 2019.

“We have seen the success of the TapRide service in and around the NDSU campus as a cost-effective way to provide public transportation to our community. This is an innovative solution and partnership for our community, and the collaboration with United Way has been, and will continue to be beneficial as we implement this service in the Industrial Park,” said Matthew Peterson, MATBUS Assistant Director of Transportation.

Between May and August of 2019, United Way will provide the resources needed for education, outreach, promotion and successful implementation of TapRide services and ensure current and potential employees and employers are aware of the new public transportation service.

In roundtable discussions with service providers, one service provider commented that she currently does not have any clients who work in the Industrial Park, and estimates that having reliable transportation would have helped 25 people get jobs in the Industrial Park last year. Several service providers have also provided letters of support to the Fargo City Commission expressing their gratitude to United Way for exploring solutions to eliminating this barrier to gainful employment in our community.

Collaboration is the key to solving complex issues in our community and support for one another in our community is vital to creating lasting social change. The approval and implementation of this project will change the game for many individuals and families in our community, and we are just getting started!

That’s the power of bringing organizations who are passionate about making a difference in together.

That’s the power of individuals, like you, rallying with United Way to create positive change.

That’s the Power of Community. Realized.

Videos:
KVLY: Poverty and Public Transportation: The United Way's new fix for Fargo families in need (video) 
WDAY: Fargo commission OKs extending bus service to industrial park (video) 
KVRR: United Way Helps Expand MATBUS Service to Industrial Park (video) 

Read the INFORUM article 
 

Read the full media release here


The United Way Workforce Transportation Project is part of the UNITED for Workforce Development Pathways Initiative which works to:

• Establish and increase collaboration among workforce agencies-educational institutions and community organizations to leverage and align resources
• Identify and remove gaps and barriers that currently exist for individuals to enter the workforce
• Increase access to supportive services that assist individuals in attaining employment
• Position underemployed and unemployed workers on a path to long-term family sustaining employment

The UNITED for Workforce Development Pathways Initiative is collaboratively funded by: 
•The Chamber
•City of Fargo
•Cornerstone Bank
•FM Area Foundation
•Greater Fargo-Moorhead Economic Development Corporation
•Microsoft
•Otto Bremer Trust
•West Central Initiative
•private investors.

United Way of Cass-Clay improves lives by activating resources to solve complex community issues and create lasting social change through 4 Bold Community Goals: Reduce Hunger & Homelessness, Prepare Children to Succeed, Help People Be Independent and Lift People Out of Poverty. United Way of Cass-Clay works to harness and activate the power of community across Cass and Clay Counties—resulting in a better tomorrow for everyone.

For more information, please contact United Way of Cass-Clay at unitedway@unitedwaycassclay.org or call 701-237-5050.

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