The Big Build Initiative is Making Moves in Otter Tail County

Community Development Agency board at the groundbreaking for The Colony apartments in Pelican Rapids

As much of Minnesota’s existing workforce gets ready to enter retirement, the state is nearing a significant shortage of workers. Finding ways to combat this shortage is one of Greater Fergus Falls’ goals, and we are always thrilled to support local initiatives that add value to our efforts. One of the most recent initiatives doing that and more is The Big Build.

What is The Big Build Initiative?

The Big Build is a housing growth initiative led by Otter Tail County that is built on partnerships to support and encourage housing development in the region. The City of Fergus Falls is a strong partner of the county in these efforts. The county is an active supporter of the rural rebound movement and promoting the area as a premier destination for those looking to relocate — especially during their prime working years.

Increasing our workforce is incredibly crucial over the next decade. Employment projections made by Minnesota Compass suggest “by 2022, Minnesota will need nearly 3.2 million workers to keep pace with historic rates of economic growth statewide. With just over 2.9 million people over the age of 16 expected to be in the labor force and working, our state is expected to fall about 239,000 workers short.” Otter Tail County alone faces a projected 4.6% reduction in the available labor force over the next ten years.

While urging people to relocate and seek work in the area is a big part of reducing the workforce gap, a low housing supply has made it challenging to accommodate the needs of newcomers and existing residents alike. The Big Build aims to address the lack of housing options by rehabilitating, preserving, and building 5,000 housing units by 2025.

“This investment in housing growth is not only an increase in houses being built but also the creation of homes for people who want to live and work in our communities,” says Lee Rogness, Chair for the Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners and board member of the Community Development Agency (CDA) and Greater Fergus Falls. “Housing opportunities are necessary to fill the more than 1,000 existing job openings in Otter Tail County, and housing continues to be a critical part of all economic development conversations.”

Completed construction of The Colony apartments, which opened for residents in September 2020

The Big Build is a Community-Centered Initiative

The Big Build’s focus isn’t solely on rehabbing or building single-family homes. The county and CDA have made it a point to ensure the initiative aligns with the housing investment priorities laid out in the county’s Long-Range Strategic Plan. “[We] have worked diligently and collaboratively to create an initiative with goals that encompass the housing needs of the entire county, from new homes for young families and affordable senior housing to the preservation and rehab of existing h