July 30, 2007

Legislators wrap up session at local event

By Noel LaBine
Wright Co. EDP

The Wright County Economic Development Partnership hosted a legislative update at the Montrose Community Center July 12.

Presenters included State Senator Amy Koch (R-Buffalo), District 19, who delivered a PowerPoint presentation about the 2007 state legislative session and issues that affect businesses.

State Senator Steve Dille (R-Dassel), District 18, also gave a brief presentation, as did State Representative Bruce Anderson (R-Buffalo), District 19A.

Reports on the federal agenda were given by Carl Kuhl from US Senator Norm Coleman’s office, and Sean Nienow from Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s office. Bachmann (R-Woodbury) represents US District 6.

Sen. Koch is on the Economic Development Budget Committee. She explained that there wasn’t much contention about the number of dollars available for different economic development initiatives, and explained progress that has been made in other categories, such as education and the environment.

Sen. Dille spoke briefly about several issues, but was particularly vocal about the amount of student debt that post secondary students have to incur to get educated. He was supportive of an initiative to include a personal financial management class in the college curriculum that would help student borrowers better manage their resources.

In addition, Dille explained his support for transportation funding, which he feels is an important part of economic development.

Rep. Anderson explained that he was particularly disturbed about the number of efforts to increase taxes to business and industry.

Sean Nienow presented on behalf of US Rep. Michelle Bachmann. Nienow pointed out that the national budget deficit has been trending lower and is half of what the budget deficit was a year ago. This is due, in part, to the strong economy of recent months. There is an effort being made to raise taxes, and allowing the last tax cut to end would, in effect, raise taxes.

Nienow shared some positive statistics about the economy. There were another 123,000 jobs created in the US in June. This is the 46th month in a row that the economy has created more jobs.

At this time, unemployment is 4.5 percent, and wage growth is outpacing inflation. Real household income (on average) has increased by 10 percent since 2001.

Carl Juhl presented on behalf of US Sen. Norm Coleman. Juhl explained that there are three areas that are most important to the senator: health care, energy, and economic development/job creation.

In health, the problems of rising costs and rural access are of particular concern to Sen. Coleman, who feels that what is needed is an overall reform in delivery of care.

Energy independence is also needed. The expansion of renewal energy such as ethanol and wind is important. However, Coleman feels the answer is in a multi-disciplined approach. Additional increases in energy conservation and efficiencies, as well as new nuclear plants and new refineries and coal plant gasification, are some other approaches that will help us become more energy independent.

Small business is the engine that drives our economy, according to Coleman. In the areas of economic development and job creation, he feels we need to be more supportive of small businesses.

Juhl ended with a mention of the reintegration of the troops returning from Iraq. He said Sen. Coleman is coordinating efforts with Sen. Amy Klobuchar for programs that will support returning troops.

A question-and-answer session took place at the end of the program. Questions about the lack of adequate funding for transportation, road improvements, and other details were discussed. One member of the audience implored the legislature to collaborate on a package that could be supported with a two-thirds majority veto override, if the governor were to veto another transportation bond.

The Wright County Partnership’s Development Series luncheons are a great place to network with community leaders from Wright County and get first-hand information about various development activities. The discussions at these events have been very valuable to developers, city representatives, and others. Future events are being planned for the fall season.

The Partnership exists to enhance the business climate of Wright County and to help create more jobs in the county. The strategies the Partnership uses to achieve its mission include being an information resource and finding technical assistance; aiding business development through Business Retention & Expansion visits; providing financing resources; and providing business information and training through seminars and workshops.

Also, the Partnership markets Wright County to business site locators, and maintains an excellent web site, which includes a listing of commercial and industrial property available in Wright County (see www.wrightpartnership.org). The Partnership assists with workforce development and has gathered economic statistical information, which is available on its web site.

District 18 includes all of Meeker and McLeod counties, plus the following areas in Wright County: the cities of Howard Lake, Cokato, and Annandale; and townships of French Lake, Middleville, South Haven, Southside, and Stockholm.

District 19 includes all of Wright County except for the following: the cities of Howard Lake, Cokato, and Annandale; and townships of French Lake, Middleville, South Haven, Southside, and Stockholm.

District 19A includes the townships of Albion, Buffalo, Chatham, Clearwater, Maple Lake, Marysville, Monticello, and Silver Creek; and the towns of Buffalo, Clearwater, Maple Lake, Monticello, and Silver Creek.

US District 6 includes a huge chunk of area that is northwest of the Twin Cities. At its southern end, it includes the townships of Cokato, Middleville, Marysville, Stockholm, Victor and Woodland; and the cities of Howard Lake, Waverly, Montrose, and Cokato.

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