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Cass Lake Startup Awarded DEED Training Grant

Aki Development will be country’s first solar manufacturer on tribal lands

10/31/2016 2:44:10 PM

Shane Delaney, 651-259-7236

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 (DEED).

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.

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 is a groundbreaking company that will be the country’s first solar manufacturer on tribal lands,” said DEED Commissioner Shawntera Hardy. “The company is making an investment in clean technology and new jobs that will help grow the economy in the Cass Lake area.”

“Minnesota’s clean energy industry supports more than 54,000 jobs and is expected to add 2,300 new jobs this year,” said Lt. Governor Tina Smith. “Strategic partnerships between state government and innovative companies like Aki show how renewable energy can drive innovation and economic opportunity in every corner of Minnesota.”

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

“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 1-to-1 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
Kraft, New Ulm, $100,000
Long Prairie Packing, Long Prairie, $100,000

DEED is the state’s principal economic development agency, promoting business recruitment, expansion and retention, workforce development, international trade and community development. For more details about the agency and its services, visit the
DEED website or follow DEED on Twitter.



Upon request, this information can be made available in alternate formats for people with disabilities by contacting the DEED Communications Office at 651-259-7161.

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