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City of Becker: Just Transition Fund Grant

Just Transition Fund Becker MN

In the 1970s, Becker was dubbed the coal capital of the world, but once the final closure of all units at Sherco occurs, roughly 68% of the city’s tax base will be gone. Sherco is the largest power plant in the state and the 16th largest in the country. At its peak, the plant employed around 300 workers. Over the past few years, the City of Becker has been working on different programs and projects to assist in the closure of the coal-fired power plant located in Becker and owned by Xcel Energy.

“It was through the lens of the plant closing overtime and the potential job loss or relocation of a substantial number of employees that really set the plans in motion,” shared Jacob Sanders, Community Development Director for the City of Becker. “Rather than sit back and let the plant closure just happen, we wanted to be proactive in backfilling the tax revenue that would be lost. We thought creatively about how we could assist in fostering economic growth and entrepreneurship, as well as help individuals grow their businesses in the city and retain businesses we already have.”

About the Grant

This is where the Just Transition Fund (JTF) comes in. The JTF’s mission is to support local innovators and community advocates in building diverse and resilient economies, specifically in communities impacted by the transition away from coal. “We applied for a grant with JTF for $150,000 to assist us in implementing a plan to help the community with economic growth and entrepreneurship. This is our first step in what we hope is a successful beginning for a business incubation/accelerator space within the City of Becker.”

Just Transition Fund Becker

With the largest coal plant in the state, Becker differs from other cities in Minnesota. “We have a city-owned golf course that is highly used and well-liked, our schools are highly rated and are a huge part of the community, and we have a small town feel but are in close range of the Twin City amenities,” said Sanders. “The Sherco plant has been a large employer and tax revenue contributor to Becker for many years. Our city is eager for more economic growth and development to backfill this loss, and as an organization, we are focused on being proactive in this approach.”

Using the funds from JTF, the City of Becker has big plans. “The overall goal is to work towards a multipurpose innovation and entrepreneurship facility – A business incubator or accelerator,” explained Nicole Smude, City of Becker’s Economic Development Coordinator. “Our vision is to partner with ILT Academy and reach out to the students in Becker and Sherburne County, as well as current businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs. The JTF grant will allow us to sponsor ILT Academy cohorts for individuals interested in further developing their businesses and ideas. We know individuals throughout Becker and Sherburne County have many great ideas for businesses. By using the funds to partner with the ILT Academy, we hope to provide an avenue for entrepreneurs to tap into resources otherwise unavailable within Becker and Sherburne County. We also believe we are starting on something great to further build a sense of community and connectedness within Becker and Sherburne County and further support our residents and economic sustainability.”

You can get involved and help spread the word! “The grant is available through November of 2024, so we have a limited timeframe to utilize the funds. We have begun meeting with local chambers and school districts in the county, as well as marketing on social media and print newspapers. We hope to reach most individuals in Sherburne County so we maximize the opportunity to apply. A few bits of key information include:

  • If you live in Sherburne County and are an entrepreneur, please consider applying for the ILT Academy 100 series. Applications will be for the July 2024 100 series or Fall 2024 100 series. The application process will be competitive.
  • Check out the City of Becker’s website for more information on Becker happenings. It will have the most updated information about the ILT Academy application process and other projects.”

Becker MN JTF“The most exciting part of beginning this process will be seeing the entrepreneurs flourish and seeing where this opportunity will lead them. We believe this is a fantastic opportunity for local entrepreneurs to build their ideas and get connected with the local network to grow their businesses. We will be engaging the local school districts and plan to conduct high school and community-based workshops in partnership with ILT Academy. We hope that by engaging the youth and our residents, we will find some great business ideas that can take shape and give tools necessary for these ideas to flourish locally. In these workshops, we hope to rally the community, introduce community members to entrepreneurship, and work to recruit cohort students to further grow Becker's economic backbone and assist in replacing the lost tax base and jobs from the Sherco plant closure.”

More about ILT & the Collaboration

ILT Academy’s Virtual Lean Startup Innovation Cohort is designed for anyone who wants to start or grow their business. Over 10 weeks, you will learn and practice how to unpack the customer discovery process, create products that people want, explore market opportunities, articulate possible marketable solutions, and validate your assumptions and ideas.

“Becker has partnered with Sherburne County to utilize the funds within Becker and Sherburne County. We will be funding the 100 series of the program, which is a $3,000 scholarship to ILT Academy.” The application process through ILT will be competitive and open to individuals 16+ located in Becker or Sherburne County. Cohorts will be hosted in the summer and fall of 2024.

To learn more, apply, or keep up with the progress of the grant program, you can watch for updates on the City of Becker’s Facebook page: