Chamber Blog

Ruth Ann Hanson, Chamber Area Director
Ruth Ann Hanson
Lisa Paxton, Chamber CEO
Lisa Paxton
Kathi Nagorski
Kathi Nagorski
Shannon Janco
Shannon Janco

Businesses Respond to Legislative Survey

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

State Representative John Ward is serving on a bipartisan small business caucus and asked the Chamber to distribute a survey to our member businesses. We created an online survey and sent it to almost 900 of our primary representatives - the owners/managers of member businesses. You should take 10 minutes and read the survey results. These responses are the most strongly opinioned responses I've seen in my 15 years at the Chamber – clearly illustrating small businesses concerns about government options and their current business challenges.

More than 60 percent of respondents have frozen wages, cut back scheduled employee hours, and reduced purchase of outside contract services in response to the recession. To weather this storm more than 80 percent have not received government assistance; rather have looked to private professional services and lenders. This echoes that fact that businesses’ top resources for business solutions are their peers, professional services, and their Chamber of Commerce.

Decreasing revenue has prompted business to make significant changes in how they operate and they are expecting government to do the same. This challenging economic time is an opportunity for government to learn from businesses and identify opportunities that focus on needs vs. wants and promote a “lean” operating system that focuses on efficiency and avoids unnecessary, burdensome regulation and associated fees. The tough decisions and operational improvements that businesses have made can be shared with government to help them adapt to operating in these challenging times.

Now that we have these survey responses, we are developing a plan to expand our engagement in policy and budget development at a local and state level. If you’d like to get involved in this process please contact me.

Also – remember to join me on January 8 for an Eggs ‘n Issues breakfast with Senator Koering, Representative Ward, and Representative Howes.

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Brainerd City Council - December 21, 2009

I had the pleasure of being in the audience at last night’s Brainerd City Council meeting.
The City Council reduced its preliminary levy by $150,000 after a handful of previous motions failed to pass. They also passed their 2010 budget. Tom Phelps of Brainerd Public Utilities presented plans for their 2010 operating and capital budget. The City Council approved it.

The College Drive project will be postponed until the next construction season.
T&B Pawn requested a variance in the number of parking stalls required to be provided for their future location on Washington Street; the City Council approved the request.

The Safety and Public Works Committee met earlier. They heard a proposal to make the City better prepared to apply for shovel-ready project grant applications; the new task force will meet next Tuesday to review potential projects.

Emily Northey, Chamber Main Street Coordinator, enorthey@explorebrainerdlakes.com.

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Brainerd City Council - December 7, 2009

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I attended the Brainerd City Council meeting last night.

The Council approved 6-1 to rezone the block bounded by South 5th Street, Laurel Street, South 4th Street and Front Street from B-4 (General Commercial) District to B-3 (Central Business) District; this is just west of City Hall. The primary difference between the two zoning districts is that the B-3 District does not require parking to be provided.

The North Brainerd Neighborhood Street Light Pilot Project will be postponed for further discussion until Feb-ruary.

The Council approved 7-0 amending the Brainerd City Code relating to on-sale liquor zones and license limita-tions. With this adoption, a wall between the bar and restaurant parts of a restaurant will no longer be needed and the bar area may be up to 49% of the restaurant.

The Brainerd City Council also approved the preliminary design and authorized final design for the South 8th Street Reconstruction Project (Oak Street to Washington Street). Approved 7-0.
The preliminary layout will be submitted to BPU for lighting recommendations. After BPU has looked at it, the consultants from SEH will bring it back to the City Council to review. That is when the locations of decorative lighting should be discussed. There are 16 COBRA lights currently. Some discussion to have some decorative lighting between Maple and Front Streets.
Description of project above ground: 10' trail on east side of the street and 10 sidewalk on west side. A grassy boulevard and trees is shown between the sidewalk or trail and the street along most of South 8th Street (Laurel to Washington Street is an exception to this). Parallel parking would be on both sides; angle parking wasn't able to fit along this road. The road will narrow to 2-lane from its current 4-lanes, except for two blocks south of Washington Street due to stacking needs and turning lane onto Oak Street.

The City Council will hold the 2010 Levy and Budget Public Hearing on Monday, December 14, 2009 at 6:00 p.m. at Brainerd City Hall, 501 Laurel Street.

Emily Northey, Chamber Main Street Coordinator, enorthey@explorebrainerdlakes.com.

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Pequot Lakes City Council-Dec 1, 2009

Friday, December 4, 2009

Ruth Ann Hanson attended the Pequot Lakes City Council meeting on Dec 1, 2009. The following items were discussed.

Budget/Levy Hearing At 6:30 the City Council held the Budget/Levy Presentation. When the first budget was drafted it was at 1,587,200 which was a 7.13% increase. The council asked that the budget be reduced further and the second draft came in at 1,527,690 a 3.5% increase for the 2009 budget. The council once again asked that the budget be dropped some more and the final budget presented December 1 at the Council meeting was $1,446.000, a -1.9% decrease from the 2009 budget. The proposed expenditures for 2010 are the same as 2009 expenditures.

Presentation from Birchdale Fire and Security for Recording System Joe Gibbons reported on the cost and set up it would take for the Pequot Lakes City Council meetings to be aired on public television. The approximate quote he gave for the installation and equipment would be around $6000. Council Member Ryan moved to accept offer from Birchdale and move forward with a plan to broadcast all public meetings. Council Member Nagel seconded the motion. Council Member Sjoblad was concerned about the quality of the sound. Council Member Malecha stated with the present economy she was not comfortable with spending the money on this particular item. Mayor Adams also stated with all the cuts they have made to the budget to bring it down she also was not comfortable pursuing that expense at this time. Council Member Malecha questioned if the system could be used in other areas of the building if needed. She also questioned if Council Member Ryan’s bid could actually be considered as a second bid. Council Member Ryan requested that the alternate bid he provided be considered as a second bid. Council Member Ryan stated this would come out of 2009 budget, would not affect the 2010 budget and the dollars are there with the Media Grant from Charter which was $4,052.28 and the remainder could come out of the Council Contingency fund. Motion failed 3-2. Roll call vote: Council Members Ryan and Nagel voting aye. Mayor Adams and Council Members Sjoblad and Malecha voting nay. The outcome of this vote eliminates the opprotunity of the Pequot Lakes public meetings being aired at this time.
Moved to close clerk’s office on Christmas Eve Day and that any employee working on that day shall be required to use a vacation, comp time, or a personal day.

Ruth Ann Hanson, Area Director
rahanson@explorebrainerdlakes.com

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Rural Rebound Forum to be Held at CLC

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Understanding what technologies and trends will drive our rural economy over the next several years is crucial to business decision makers, educators, and policy makers today as they create value for their owners and prepare their organizations to fulfill its mission. Central Lakes College will be hosting a forum to help you understand some of the trends occurring in rural Minnesota today, particularly within key industry sectors such as renewable energy and biosciences. With the government and private sector investing significantly into these sectors we need to understand better the opportunities that are available to us. The event will be held on our Brainerd Campus on January 7, 2010. You will leave this forum with a better understanding of the business opportunities we have available in these key industry sectors and what we need to do to prepare to take advantage of these opportunities. Call the Small Business Development Center today to learn more about how you can attend this illuminating forum. The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is part of the Business and Industry Center at Central Lakes College. For more information on the SBDC program visit www.clcmn.edu/smallbusiness or call us at (218) 855-8140.

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