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Business Roundtable with Chip Cravaack

Monday, November 29, 2010

To introduce our newly elected Congressman Chip Cravaack, R-Minnesota, to the Brainerd Lakes community, I facilitated a roundtable discussion of business and organization leaders in the Brainerd Lakes Area representing diverse industries, ranging from banking to manufacturing, last Tuesday before his community reception at the Holiday Inn Express.

The need for economic stability in the United States was a central theme shared at the table. “We have to create a stable workforce environment,” Cravaack said. He said this topic also was a central theme expressed by the more than 80 newly elected Republican members of the House of Representatives. “Business is a prime topic,” Cravaack said. “When business does well, we all do well.”

Another common opinion, summarized in a comment by one of the participants, was, “We simply have to get government out of business.”

Cravaack said the second biggest challenge after slimming down government will be determining how to repeal nationalized health care legislation.

Many key areas of concern boiled down to a central theme that one-size-does-not-fit-all when it comes to writing federal legislation. For instance, community banks were not the culprit in the banking problems that crippled the country a few years ago. Unfortunately, the federal regulations now being put in place to address the concerns created by Wall Street and major banks now are injuring many vibrant and fiscally responsible community banks.

Here’s a look at some of the key discussion points:
• Rural areas need to be provided a level playing field when competing with major metro areas. For instance, the Representative-elect was asked to take a look a federal legislation affecting telecommunications companies. Businesses and citizens living in rural areas deserve the same access to broadband, or high-speed Internet connectivity, as do businesses in urban areas.
• Cut government spending! This measure could provide businesses the confidence to invest in their own businesses, which would grow the economy.
• A level playing field again was a concern regarding the level of Medicare reimbursement provided to hospitals. For instance, the ability to thrive by hospitals receiving some of the lowest Medicare reimbursement levels will become a challenge, especially if businesses change health insurance policies for employees in light of health care reforms.
• The two year extension of the Bush tax cuts proposed by some Congressional leaders won’t provide business with the long-term confidence they need to invest in their businesses and grow the economy.

Many other topics, ranging from estate tax reform to education funding, were discussed during the hour-long roundtable discussion. To tee up the conversation, I shared information on the changing face of the Brainerd Lakes Area economy and preliminary results of a recent Chamber policy survey. In addition, Sheila Haverkamp, Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corp. executive director, discussed what is being done to position our area for future growth.

A public reception, attended by more than 125 people at the Holiday Inn Express and Suites in Baxter, was held in Cravaack’s honor following the roundtable discussion.

When asked whether he would maintain an office in Brainerd, as has been the policy of his predecessor, Rep. James Oberstar, Cravaack said he is researching options but that he prefers more of an outreach program. He’s considering developing a mobile office system. “We want to go out to constituents,” he said.

He told the large audience, on point with the same message he delivered to the roundtable participants, that the federal government must get serious about how it spends money. “Are we not brave enough to say no?,” he asked, noting Americans should take out their wallets, look at their children’s photographs, and ask themselves whether they want to pass on this federal deficit to their children.



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