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Minnesota Business Development and growth in 2006
Minnesota's �Grow Minnesota!', the private-sector business development program initiated by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce in 2003, reports a positive outlook on businesses, their willful staying power and growth within the state. After 2 years and over 1,300 businesses evaluated and visited and in discussions among top CEOs across Minnesota, the Chamber has conducted consistent surveys and analysis resulting in favorable potential for Minnesota businesses. "Eighty-nine percent of the businesses we visited in year two said there's a low probability of leaving their communities," said Bill Blazar, senior vice president of public affairs and business development for the Minnesota Chamber. "That's cause for celebration."
This festive perspective should not be overshadowed by the crucial points to be concentrated on in order to maintain an aggressive business framework. Bill Blazar went on to say that in order to continue the success that Minnesota businesses have enjoyed, it is crucial to ascertain why there is a discrepancy. "We must ask ourselves, 'Can we afford to lose these approximately 90 companies?" The Chamber partners denote a wide scope of communities throughout the state. From the small and large to the rural and metro�Minneapolis and St. Paul to Duluth, Rochester and Marshall. Additionally, Staff members span and appraise 10 additional communities which did not receive complete representation from Grow Minnesota!. These supplemental surveys help to verify the presence of the Chamber's investigation in all areas of Minnesota.
"Grow Minnesota! is not a scientific poll," explains Blazar. "But the visits provide valuable insight into what businesses are experiencing and thinking. The information we gather helps strengthen the public policies that we advance on behalf of our members at the Minnesota Chamber." Concurrently, the highest ranked issues named both by the businesses that were evaluated and the Minnesota Chamber are transportation infrastructure, state taxes and escalating costs of health care.
The major findings of Growth in Minnesota!'s Chamber of Commerce include:
-- Businesses enjoy Minnesota's high quality of life, and are willing to stay despite high taxes and a burdensome regulatory environment. If a company plans to move or expand out of its community or the state, it is usually for distinctive reasons.
-- Companies are generally optimistic. The majority of companies say their profits and numbers of employees have grown during the past two years. Most companies expect employment to increase in the next year,and they are planning on expanding their facilities.
-- Some parts of the state's economic infrastructure need improvement. Transportation -- highway, transit and air -- draws the greatest concern. More companies also are expressing concerns about the state's systems for preparing people to work and then retraining them when necessary.
-- Rising costs are affecting businesses. Local and state taxes, health care costs, workers' compensation rates and unemployment insurance are hurting the profitability of businesses.
-- Economic strengths and weaknesses vary by region. This year's report provides regional as well as statewide data. Each region's distinctive characteristics -- both positive and negative -- relative to the other regions are identified. These differences make a strong case and add to the growing support for implementing regional economic development strategies.
Grow Minnesota! Expanded in 2006 by adding six local partners to it's existing 36 local Chambers. In this last year, Grow Minnesota! added communications with headquarters of major employers based in other states. Among these visited included a meeting with U.S. Steel management personnel in Pittsburgh.
The program has recently included a developmental game plan of heightened consideration to the state's largest employers and/or those companies with the best success potential. The program collaborated with the Itasca Group, a consortium of Twin Cities civic and public sector leaders, for this particular strategy.
One of the 4 main objectives of Grow Minnesota!'s plan is to research and follow-up on the businesses' entreaties for help. One in five visits (140 Companies) requested this assistance and, in each example, members of the chamber and/or volunteers put forth an effort to find a solution to the issue or establish a communication between suitable local or state government executives. Grow Minnesota! has been lauded similarly by both local chambers of commerce and independent businesses. "The involvement of local private-sector business leaders as interviewers has been key," said Kathi Schaff, president of the Cambridge Area Chamber of Commerce. "These individuals have developed new relationships and a keen awareness of the many common challenges our local businesses face. Our local chamber is already working on local public policy areas that can build and enhance our community's economic development opportunities."
And from Barb Obershaw, president of the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce: "We gained insight into businesses' views and priorities which most likely points to overall concerns held by our overall business community," she said. "As a result, we have formed special issues groups to study and recommend specific positions and policies in the areas of state and local taxation and government spending, health care costs and transportation."
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