Dane County putting $2 million into Badger Prairie Needs Network expansion, new job training initiative

Shanzeh Ahmad | Wisconsin State Journal

Dane County is set to invest $2 million into expanding Badger Prairie Needs Network’s building and kick-starting a new job training initiative at the Verona-based organization to help communities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

County Executive Joe Parisi announced the 4,800-square-foot expansion Wednesday along with representatives from Badger Prairie Needs Network, the Latino Academy of Workforce Development and the other community partners. Once the expansion is complete, the space will be used for job training sessions, wellness programming and the relaunch of the organization’s weekend community meal program to help stimulate economic mobility and financial stability for residents across the county.

“It is through these types of partnerships that we hope to help residents and the Dane County community recover from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Parisi said. “This addition to Badger Prairie Needs Network will serve as a new hub for community programs and services on the southwest side of Dane County.”

Badger Prairie Needs Network will be relaunching the free community meals after having to close the program during the pandemic and will use the old space to expand the organization’s food pantry, one of the largest in the county. The free meals will be offered in the new space on Saturdays.

The job training will initially focus on underserved communities in Dane County, many of which were hit hardest during the pandemic, looking for help preparing for and finding work with local employers in the transportation industry.

More than 51% of those helped by Badger Prairie Needs Network, which runs one of the county’s largest food pantries, are people of color.

The investment will also benefit the Latino Academy’s transportation-related training program, the only one of its kind in south-central Wisconsin, which targets job seekers and potential business entrepreneurs who are unemployed or underemployed.

Other partners include the Workforce Development Board of South Central Wisconsin, WorkSmart Network, Fitchburg Chamber of Commerce and Verona Area Chamber of Commerce.

“This new initiative and partnerships with workforce and economic development organizations, chambers of commerce and local government offer increased opportunities for community members who have faced significant hardship over the past 15 months,” said Maggie Gleason, executive director of the Badger Prairie Needs Network. “Training programs that also respond to the workforce needs of local businesses will provide economic benefit for our entire community.”