Minnesota Diversified Industries, a nonprofit plastics manufacturer that provides employment opportunities for people with disabilities, is adding a polypropylene extruder to its Grand Rapids facility.

The nearly $3 million investment was supported by a $250,000 development infrastructure grant to the city of Grand Rapids and will add 75 jobs to northern Minnesota over the next decade.

MDI, more than 50 years old, provides an inclusive work environment for people with disabilities. Nearly half of its more than 500 employees have disabilities.

"This investment benefits our customers and furthers our continued mission of providing employment opportunities and services for people with disabilities," said MDI president and CEO Peter McDermott.

The state-of-the-art extruder, manufactured in Italy, creates sheets that can be converted into boxes, trays and totes for commercial customers. The equipment is expected to be contributing to product sales by late 2021.

Funding partners include the state's Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, the Blandin Foundation, the Otto Bremer Trust and Enbridge.

Reid Forgrave

Silver Bay

New child care center opens on North Shore

A new child care center in Silver Bay will help tackle a child-care shortage that has plagued parts of greater Minnesota in recent years.

The Little Mariners center recently opened in the William Kelley School with a safe drop-off zone and parking area, and at full capacity it will create 132 new child-care slots: 60 school-age children, 36 preschool-age children, 21 toddlers and 15 infants. It offers year-round care Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. until 6 p.m., and school-age care after school on Fridays and during summer months.

Using a $225,000 community infrastructure grant by the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, the center was created by renovating and converting four rooms within the K-12 school.

The area is considered to have one of the highest needs for more child care in northeastern Minnesota, which has impacted recruitment and retention of the area's workforce. A 2016 report by the Center for Rural Policy and Development called the state's lack of child care a "quiet crisis."

"Quality child care is central to the vitality of our region's communities, businesses and families," said Mark Phillips, commissioner of IRRRB. "A community's child care shortage can inhibit its economic and population growth."