By Anna Erickson

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., visited Park Rapids Tuesday as part of a tour of several businesses in central Minnesota.

In Park Rapids, Klobuchar took a tour of Black Swan Cooperage, a family-run business that handcrafts barrels that are sold to small distilleries and microbreweries across the country.

Heidi Karasch, owner of Black Swan Cooperage, said that while the industry as a whole is growing and her company could easily sell more barrels, finding additional workers would be a stumbling block.

Barrel making is a craft and there is a lack of skilled workers in the area, she told Klobuchar.

Klobuchar said she is looking for ways for the federal government to help fund job training programs to close the skills gap prevalent in northern Minnesota.

“We need to get the word out to kids that manufacturing is something they can get into,” Klobuchar said.

Theresa Schermerhorn, who works in human resources for Lamb-Weston RDO, spoke with Klobuchar briefly in Park Rapids as well about the need for well-trained workers in northern Minnesota.

Klobuchar said she is aware of the issues and it is on her radar.

Creating internships and apprenticeships in certain work fields at the high school should be a priority, she said. “We need to work on making grants available for these types of programs,” Klobuchar said.

In Walker, Klobuchar visited Pro-West & Associates to congratulate Annette Theroux, president and CEO, and her staff on the company being named the 2013 U.S. Small Business Administration’s National Small Business Subcontractor of the Year.

Klobuchar also was in Fergus Falls and Sebeka on Tuesday.