International Institute breaks ground for expansion

By Scott Carlson

The International Institute of Minnesota in June broke ground on a $12.5 million headquarters expansion that will enable the nationally acclaimed nonprofit to annually serve an additional 500 new refugees and immigrants in its workforce training programs.

The institute’s enhanced presence at 1694 Como Ave. will serve as a welcome and education center for immigrants and refugees, institute officials said.

“We are grateful for all of our supporters that have helped make this expansion possible,” institute executive director Jane Graupman said in a statement. “Even before the pandemic, the institute experienced a significant increase in demand for our services.”

The institute achieved several milestones in 2020, surpassing 25,000 refugees resettled since 1974, and assisting in 15,000 citi­zenship applications being filed since 2001. As baby boomers age out of the workforce, new immigrant Americans are becoming essential in helping buoy Minnesota’s labor market and economic vitality in the global marketplace, institute officials said.

Meanwhile, the ­headquarters expansion includes a 16,000 square-foot wing containing six new classrooms, interactive training labs, a welcoming lobby and gathering spaces for clients and their families, according to an institute news release.

Currently, the existing 18,000 square-foot building is being remodeled to maximize use of space, ensure accessibility and flexibility for future use. All remodeling and expansion work is expected to be completed in 2022.

The institute’s expansion project is being funded by a $3 million state bonding appropriation, private and corporate foundations and individual donors. The Otto Bremer Trust has awarded $1 million to the project, including a $750,000 program related investment and a $250,000 grant.

Other major contributors include the Fred C. and Katherine B. Andersen Foundation, F.R. Bigelow Foundation, Hardenbergh Foundation, HRK Foundation and Saint Paul Foundation.

“The International Institute of Minnesota has a tremendous track record of helping new Americans achieve stability and quickly become contributing members of the workforce, particularly in the much-needed healthcare professions,” Otto Bremer Trust co-chief executive officer and trustee Charlotte Johnson said in a statement. “By substantially increasing the institute’s facility, the organization will be able to double the number of workforce program participants annually.”

Founded in 1919, the International Institute of Minnesota’s programs and services for immigrants and refugees include workforce development, employment training, immigration and citizenship services, refugee resettlement, English language classes and a college readiness academy. 

Scott Carlson is managing editor of the Bugle.

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