June 6, 2012
Follow the headlines, and it’s clear that changing demographics are headed on a crash course for Minnesota’s employers, business community and the entire economy – unless we take immediate action to reform federal immigration laws. Minnesota’s workforce is growing slower while the economy tries to expand. The result is a shortage of workers of all skill levels. Here’s an opportunity to hear top-level Minnesota business leaders speak to current immigration reform and how they see it affecting their future workforces.
The Minnesota Chamber, as a member of the Minnesota Business Immigration Coalition, is pleased to co-sponsor “How Immigration Leads to Economic Growth and American Jobs:
The Perspective of Minnesota Business Leaders” – a networking breakfast June 8 at the Northland Inn in Brooklyn Park. We’re most fortunate to have Jeremy Robbins, policy adviser and special counsel in the Office of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Partnership for a New American Economy, as moderator for the program. For program details and to register, click on http://bit.ly/MFOpSQ
America is in the middle of an important immigration debate. We need to view immigration as a tool to help us create a workforce that maximizes our productivity, grows our economy and creates American jobs. Please join us and share your stories.
May 18, 2012
Governor Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature convened this year with a common focus on jobs. For some, jobs meant passage of a bonding bill and Vikings stadium. The Minnesota Chamber pursued a broader agenda to improve the business climate for all employers and employees in our state. The Minnesota Chamber delivered on several fronts – advancing pro-jobs legislation as well as blocking bills that would increase the cost of doing business in Minnesota. That said, the 2012 session was not without its disappointments, too.
On a positive note, many of our priorities passed the Legislature. Much to our displeasure, however, the Governor either vetoed or blocked key measures important to job creation. That’s disconcerting as these public policy initiatives are essential if Minnesota employers are to compete in today’s global economy. Strengthening the business environment will improve the lives of all Minnesotans.
The dominance of the stadium debate certainly added to the challenges of the session. Though the stadium was not one of our top priorities, we believe the Vikings are an important statewide asset that we need to keep. It was important to resolve this issue now so we can focus on next year’s projected budget deficit, tax reform, workforce development and alignment, and other priorities of the statewide business community.
This Jobs Scorecard is a brief overview of the role that pro-business lawmakers played in advancing your priorities and blocking many “anti-jobs” proposals. We hope our members will use it as a guide for their post-session and pre-election conversations with their legislators. As has been our tradition, the Minnesota Chamber will be publishing and sharing a more detailed Voting Record in the weeks ahead. Our immediate priority is the November 2012 elections; we must maintain our pro-business majorities in the Legislature.
For a link to the Jobs Scorecard, click on http://www.mnchamber.com/priorities/JobsScorecard_2012.pdf
April 20, 2012
Minnesota’s economy remains volatile, but one theme remains constant: Employers are challenged to find qualified workers. We hear the concern over and over from all sizes and types of companies, no matter the region of the state. Businesses now have an opportunity to help shape the state’s workforce training.
The Minnesota Chamber is partnering with the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system in a series of conversations to identify the state’s workforce needs. More than 50 focus groups are planned with business and industry representatives throughout Minnesota to gain a more precise understanding of employers’ current and future workforce needs – how many workers and professionals with what types of skills will be needed in which regions of the state for what kinds of jobs.
The initial round of listening sessions will focus on six industry sectors: energy, engineering, healthcare, information technology, manufacturing and transportation. For a schedule of the meetings and the industry that will be addressed, and to register, visit www.mnworkforceneeds.eventbrite.com. There is no cost to attend. For additional information, contact Jennifer Byers, Minnesota Chamber vice president of grassroots, at (651) 292-4673 or email@example.com.
The first step is to identify employer needs across the spectrum of the workforce. The second step is to ensure that the higher ed system listens and responds. Information collected will be used by MnSCU and other higher ed institutions to examine the range of their curriculum – from certificate and degree programs to worker retraining to custom training.
We look forward to partnering with MnSCU as we strive to make Minnesota the “skilled worker state.” Please join us around the state, and let us know what is necessary to raise Minnesota’s economy to the next level.
March 22, 2012
The Minnesota Chamber ranked No. 2 in lobbying expense at the Capitol last year. We’re proud of the value we consistently deliver for our members’ investment.
The annual release of campaign finance reports generates its share of scrutiny, and our detractors often seize the report to criticize the influence of “big business.” We welcome the spotlight as the statewide voice of business and don’t shy away from the fact that it takes time and resources to advance sound public policy in St. Paul. In addition, our activity is much broader than advocating for our members at the Legislature. For example, we are the only organization that represents the business customer before the Public Utilities Commission.
For the record, characterizing the Minnesota Chamber as the face of “big business” is a gross exaggeration. Eighty-percent of our members have fewer than 100 employees – representative of the rank-and-file businesses than line Main Streets across our state. Our members rely on us to do the heavy lifting at the Capitol so they can concentrate on running their businesses and providing for their employees.
March 15, 2012
The Minnesota Chamber’s Business Day at the Capitol was another successful event as business leaders had an opportunity to advance their priorities face-to-face with our policy-makers. The event also gave everyone a true appreciation of the hard work that our legislators do year-round on the behalf of all Minnesotans.
Legislative redistricting has predictably generated a number of announced retirements. That’s not all bad – turnover is healthy as fresh faces present the opportunity for new ideas and perspectives. That said, we will miss the experience and expertise that many of these retiring legislators brought to the table. All lawmakers obviously do not align with our priorities; that’s part of the democratic process. But we respect all of their efforts to make Minnesota a better place for all Minnesotans.
February 22, 2012
Even Education Minnesota President Tom Dooher must tire of advancing the same rhetoric that “more money and smaller class sizes” are the answers to improving student achievement in Minnesota’s K-12 public schools. Minnesota has one of the widest achievement gaps in the country – persisting among racial groups as well as across socioeconomic levels. Less publicized, but equally distressing, is that Minnesota minorities fare worse on standardized testing than their peers in other states. No one can defend the status quo.
It’s time Education Minnesota generates some fresh ideas. Education funding will always be on the table, but the answer to increasing student academic progress is not always more money or lower class sizes. Some districts with the highest per-pupil funding have the highest achievement gaps in the state.
Before we hear that “this is just business talking,” look at the broad coalition working to address our education problems. The coalition is specifically supporting legislation this session that links student academic progress to teacher evaluations. Minnesota is one of 11 states that requires districts to use seniority as the deciding factor in layoff decisions – commonly referred to as “last in, first out” (LIFO). We are heartened by the rank-and-file teachers who see the merit in adopting this legislation that require districts to consider performance as well as seniority when making layoff decisions. This bill is all about enabling school districts to recruit and retain the most effective teachers. When will Education Minnesota come on board?
February 8, 2012
Of all the issues we work on, permitting is one of the most frustrating ones. Our members simply ask: With 900 employees at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency alone, why is it so hard to receive a timely permit?
The good news is a recent MPCA report showed a 99-percent success rate in complying with its new mandate to issue environmental permits within 150 days for new construction and expansions. We applaud the agency’s efforts. Streamlining and modernizing the environmental review and permitting processes that involve state agencies remains a priority for businesses of all types and sizes. The Minnesota Chamber initiated legislation in 2011 that passed with bipartisan support and was signed by Governor Dayton that was an important first step in finding efficiencies in the permitting and review process.
Dig deeper into the MPCA statistics, and there’s still clearly room to improve. Of the 1,678 permits accounted for, 1,393 were construction stormwater permits that were dispatched in an average of 4.5 days – standard permits with routine turnaround. However, as of December 31, 175 permit applications had not been issued and were older than 150 days. Of these, eight were categorized as priority permits. In addition, 67 permits took longer than 150 days to issue, meaning a total of 242 applications exceeded the goal of 150 days.
The Minnesota Chamber is advancing legislation this session that will clarify whether a permit application is “complete enough for processing” and will clarify when the clock starts on the 150-day goal.
We look forward to working with the MPCA and other agencies to ensure a timely and predictable system for all permits. Businesses large and small routinely compare all costs and regulatory requirements against other states and nations. Not one of our members has asked to lower a standard. They just want a consistent and efficient process. In today’s economy why are we not doing everything we can to help Minnesota companies expand, and in a timely fashion?
February 2, 2012
Reform is center stage at the Legislature, and it’s more than just a buzzword. Democratic legislators unveiled a package of initiatives to “make the Legislature work better.” A Republican measure recommends consolidating back-office functions in state government. On a local level, southeastern Minnesota counties are getting closer to finalizing plans that would combine human services resources to save money.
“Innovate” – the redesign of state and local government services – is at the forefront of the Minnesota Chamber’s legislative initiatives this year. Rebecca Paulsen, chair of our Fiscal Policy Committee, details our agenda at http://bit.ly/y05vGR. Implementing outcome-based budgeting is at the top of those priorities: Agree on total revenue, set priorities, and measure the results of priority programs.
For the first time in several years, lawmakers are not facing a deficit in the checking account. But we’re not out of the woods by any means as the general fund faces a structural balance for the next two years. Let’s seize the opportunity to develop smarter budgeting for better results.
December 5, 2011
Minnesota received some welcome news for the short term in the budget forecast: The state’s checking account is projected to have an $876 million surplus for the current biennium, which ends June 30, 2013. Now let’s use the opportunity for our long-term advantage by focusing on ways to seek efficiencies in the delivery of government programs and services.
The projected surplus must be put in perspective given the fact that the state’s general fund exceeds $32 billion. And, in recent years, tax collections to run the government have been anything but stable. We have a projected surplus nonetheless. Let’s not repeat the mistake we made the last time we had good news. Let’s take the opportunity to enact priority-based budgeting and restructure the delivery of state and local services – both key priorities of the Minnesota Chamber.
Governor Dayton and legislative leaders have been promoting government reform in their respective 2012 agendas, and they underscored their resolve following the budget forecast. Reform is at the foundation of the Minnesota Chamber’s Jobs Agenda as well. Creativity and innovation have enabled businesses to survive the recession and, in many instances, emerge stronger. Similar principles must guide government if Minnesotans are to adjust to the “New Normal.” The statewide business community stands ready to help forge a foundation for Minnesota to flourish in the economy.
November 28, 2011
It’s a recurring theme among our members, “Why can’t government let me run my business instead of regulating me to death? I wish they would just once say, ‘I am here to help,’ and not ‘I am here to regulate, inspect or audit you.’”
Regulatory reform will be among the Minnesota Chamber’s priorities for the 2012 Legislature. Our initiatives include continued streamlining of the environmental review and permit systems. But we know businesses are frustrated by regulations in a variety of areas.
Consider this example from Red Wing Shoe Co. which was told it no longer could leave doors to its work floor open to provide some ventilation and allow workers to go outside for breaks. The directive came from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security since Red Wing Shoes imports and exports footwear. Consequently, in order to provide an appropriate work environment, the company felt compelled to install a $750,000 air conditioning/dehumidification system. And because Minnesota corporate income taxes are apportioned on capital investment, the company’s state income taxes went up as it invested to make a better workplace for its Minnesota employees! It’s no wonder that Minnesota businesses complain about the regulatory environment.
The Minnesota Chamber’s efforts at the Capitol are most effective when we can provide policy-makers with examples. If you are aggravated by regulations, please forward the specifics to Laura Bordelon, senior vice president for advocacy, at firstname.lastname@example.org.