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State awards job training grant to Cass Lake LED manufacturer

ST. PAUL--LED lighting assembly and testing startup Aki Development LLC of Cass Lake has been awarded a $29,000 job-training grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

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ST. PAUL-LED lighting assembly and testing startup Aki Development LLC of Cass Lake has been awarded a $29,000 job-training grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

The grant was awarded under DEED's Job Training Incentive Program, which provides funding to help new or expanding businesses in Greater Minnesota train workers, a news release said.

Aki, a tribally-chartered corporation on the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Reservation in northern Minnesota, is opening an LED assembly and testing facility in Cass Lake that will employ up to nine workers to assemble and test LED streetlights. Aki recently purchased a 60 percent stake in Saga Solar-a St. Paul-based solar photovoltaic panel manufacturer-and moved the operation to Cass Lake.

With the help of the DEED funding, the company will work with the Leech Lake Tribal College in Cass Lake to develop classes that will teach the new workers how to manufacture and install photovoltaic panels.

Aki Development and the training partnership were acknowledged in an announcement by the White House earlier this month observing National Manufacturing Day.

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"This collaboration with the local tribal community college will train the next generation of solar manufacturers, encourage indigenous engineering and research, and lead to economic and environmental sustainability in the community," the White House said.

The Job Training Incentive Program, which was created by the Minnesota Legislature last year, provides training grants of up to $100,000 to new or expanding businesses. Businesses must match the training grants on a one-to-one basis and create at least three new jobs.

Along with Aki, seven other small Minnesota companies were awarded 2017 Fiscal Year funding from the program:

Black Swan Cooperage, Park Rapids, $30,000

Minnesota National Agency, Long Prairie, $15,000

Sterns Assembly, Brainerd, $63,000

Alexandria Pro-Fab, Alexandria, $59,000

Mortek Inc., Osakis, $18,000

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Kraft, New Ulm, $100,000

Long Prairie Packing, Long Prairie, $100,000

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