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Saturday, April 17, 2021


On August 1st, 2007, I was having dinner in a restaurant next to the Highway 61 Bridge in Hastings, Minnesota with a retired businessman, his girlfriend, and a local lawyer and his wife.  Glancing up at the TV over the bar, we were witnesses to the news of the 35W Bridge collapse into the Mississippi River.  

As we left the restaurant we looked up at the underside of the Highway 61 Bridge since we had parked on the land side parking lot beneath it.  We noted the general condition of the structure and wondered if it too was a risky passage, 26 miles further downstream over the same body of water on which the 35W tragedy had occurred.

Within months the Minnesota DOT had come to the conclusion that the bridge was indeed  risky.  They began making immediate temporary repairs while planning for a new span.  The existing Hastings Bridge had been erected in 1951. Its planned replacement, scheduled for 2019, was accelerated to commence in 2010, based on the condition of the structure and the fact it is one of the busiest bridges in the state, handling enormous traffic as a major north/ south artery from the Twin Cities. 



Planners at the Minnesota DOT are to be applauded for the manner in which this project has proceeded and the people of the community, as well as their civic, government and industry leaders should be congratulated for the businesslike, cooperative and efficient manner in which this project has been conducted. 

Local community meetings solicited input from the citizens on the design. The options were carefully weighed in terms of environmental and aesthetic impact.  Hastings, Minnesota is an old river town with a preservationist ethic that spans generations. That fact was not ignored.  The Highway 61 corridor has remained open, eliminating a major detour for commuters.

The state ran a competitive bidding process.  The winning contractor joint venture was a team of reputable companies who planned to use state of the art pre-stressed concrete as a design to construct the longest such span on the North American Continent, costing millions below the state estimate for the job.

Heavy girders have been manufactured locally in Minnesota and transported from north of Minneapolis to the Hastings site with computer steered special transports involving minimal disruption.  The large, arch frame for the bridge was recently floated downstream from a staging area near Lock and Dam 2 on the Mississippi after having been assembled by skilled union iron workers. 
It was lifted in place on 24 September by the largest heavy lifting equipment company in the world, who traveled from Europe to support the project. 

The Coast Guard, Corps of Engineers, State DOT, Hastings Community and all related support organizations have worked in a cooperative manner to achieve a demanding schedule.  The bridge work will be completed and the new span will open in the near future.  



I have yet to hear a politician or agency official attempt to take credit for this project or pursue some form of attention-seeking advantage as a result of it.  In an election year, considering the nature of politics these days, that is a highly unusual occurrence. 

I am sure there will be events commemorating the project success, as there should be; but it is my hope those events will celebrate the true nature of the achievement. 


It has been a pleasure observing the Highway 61 bridge replacement over the Mississippi at Hastings. Its planning, execution and achievement have been exemplary to an old project manager who has witnessed difficulties with entrenched bureaucracies in industry and government for years.

This has been a shared, community, cooperative venture, worthy of note when considering models for the future of our country and the path it must take to overcome many challenges – political, economic and technological.

Certainly similar projects can be undertaken involving other infrastructure programs such as  education using the same form of cooperative, shared, professional action.

Let’s build bridges like this one in many other fields of endeavor!

Monday, April 05, 2021

Help for Veterans In Translating Military Experience To Civilian Job Openings

As Veterans Ascend CEO Robyn Grable put it, her site is essentially “ for veteran employment.” (Photo provided by Veterans Ascend

“Veterans Ascend, a website that gives veterans a direct link to contact prospective employers and also translates military-speak into the keywords that recruiters are looking for on a resume. “
“When Col. Mindy Williams took her resume to a civilian recruiter for fine-tuning, she was told that it would “scare people.”
Apparently, the Marine language she was using essentially “translates to ‘hired killer’ in military terminology,” Williams said she was told.
As Williams learned, it can be very hard for veterans to explain on a resume how the skills they learned in the military are applicable to civilian jobs.
“At Veterans Ascend, you have people who served in the military and cut through all the formalities and make that match between a civilian employer and the veteran,” she said. “And they know what they’re talking about.”
Veterans can sign up for free and create a Veterans Ascend profile that contains information about what they did during their military service. Then the site’s algorithm translates that language into layman’s terms, to highlight skills recruiters are looking for. Finally, employers who have also made profiles can match with veterans and contact them for interviews.
It’s essentially “ for veteran employment,” Veterans Ascend CEO Robyn Grable said.
“Because we’re matching on skills, veterans are getting the ability to match with jobs they’d never find anywhere else and for jobs they wouldn’t even begin to think their skills would qualify them for,” she said.
Veterans Ascend launched in late 2018. Grable said that about 2,000 veterans have signed up for it so far, as have several employers. Recently, Lockheed Martin signed up, and the company has pledged to do interviews with at least three veterans, according to Grable.
Grable believes that Veterans Ascend solves a few issues veterans face when applying for jobs. For one, it eliminates the chance that computer-screening software won’t be able to interpret their resumes and will scrap their applications before they ever reach a recruiter.
Grable hopes that it will also help diminish veteran under-employment as well as unemployment.
“Veterans can get jobs … It’s the problem of under-employment and getting good careers that use our skills,” she said. “For a veteran to come out of the military and get offered a $10-an-hour job to support their family, it’s embarrassing. That’s the bigger issue, getting them into a job that’s commensurate with all their skills.”
Such a service probably would have helped Stacey Wiggins, Veterans Ascend’s chief operating officer, when he was separating from the military. The Air Force veteran said he went through the military’s Transition Assistance Program and yet still had to send out about 200 resumes before he landed a job.
A very small percentage of the population has served in the military or has an immediate family member who has served. That means there’s a gap in civilian knowledge out there about the terminology the military utilizes to describe skills that could translate to a civilian workplace, Grable said.
“Those are skills that go across every civilian occupation,” Grable said. “But employees are missing out on these people because employers don’t understand those skills.”
Veterans Ascend hopes to bridge these gaps.
“I just really want all the veterans and all the employers to jump on this bandwagon,” Williams said. “It could do great stuff for both.”
Wiggins believes that Veterans Ascend can help vets who feel like they were “left hanging” after TAP didn’t prepare them well enough for finding civilian employment.
“Networking is one of the most important things, because it really is about those connections,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to facilitate those connections.”
Williams also felt that TAP didn’t get her sufficiently ready for life after the military. That lack of preparation creates a huge divide between what employers want to see from veterans and what veterans think employers are looking for, Williams said.
“If we could focus on that chasm, we could have results,” she said. “I think that Veterans Ascend does provide a really great fix to the chasm.”

Military Times