Government changes could help produce private jobsNews from Tuesday's job summit.
By: Don Davis/State Capitol Bureau, Pine Journal
ST. PAUL – Government can improve how it works, nearly 800 people heard at Gov. Mark Dayton’s job summit Tuesday, which can help businesses create jobs.
Dayton already is looking into a General Mills plan to change how his office is managed. Denise Holloman, a General Mills vice president, said the key to her company’s success is “total employee involvement.”
Organizations traditionally get most of their ideas from 5 percent to 10 percent of their employees, but she suggested involving all employees to get more ideas. That could produce improvements to help Minnesotans, she said.
Eliot Seide of the state’s largest employee union liked the idea and suggested there is a need for fewer managers.
However, Seide said, even in a tough economic environment, making changes will not be free. “Redesign may require up-front investments.”
Mark Ronnei of Nisswa, Grand View Lodge general manager, used an example about how the state hurts his business, something he said could be fixed in a day.
Ronnei said that he must wait six to eight weeks to receive permission to install a new hot tub in his lodge.
Given that, he added, “it will take a lifetime to get a mine permit.”
Ronnei did not know it, but sitting next to him was John Linc Stine, who when he worked at the state Health Department developed the hot tub rules.
Stine, now at the Pollution Control Agency, said that sometimes permits need to be considered for a long time, but most PCA permits are issued within days.
“We want to make sure we get it right,” Stine said.
Many people, especially Republicans, say government should get out of businesses’ way, but Edina Mayor Jim Hovland threw water on that idea.
“That is a time that is gone,” the Grand Forks, N.D., native said. “It’s a partnership.”
Hovland suggested that other communities follow his idea, to hire an economic development director who could “ram rod” through permits and other government decisions.
Ernst van Gulijk of Nova-Tech said his Willmar company opened a business development campus that now has 325 people because “one cannot always rely on government to do the job for you.”
James Seiben said he knows of no other privately funded job incubation project like he runs on an old Willmar state hospital campus.
Democrat Dayton opened the summit saying that Minnesota ranked seventh in the country in per-person income eight years ago, but has dropped to No. 13.
Minnesota’s economic slide mirrors problems nationwide, he added. “The tale of the state and the tale of the country are remarkably similar.”
One session discussed how to best brand Minnesota.
“What’s different about this state?” Duluth Mayor Don Ness suggested be considered while the new brand is formed.
Ness also said that state promotion should be honest, not only marketing hype.
The mayor said that in pushing Duluth he discusses how Duluth at one time was thought to be a dying city, but also adds: “You have had adversity and now it is different.”
Cloquet Mayor Bruce Ahlgren said that state aid to local communities is being cut at a time when some need it most.
When city aid falls, he said, “most cities go after the libraries right away.” With so many unemployed people, he added, they need those libraries to research for new jobs.
Dayton suggested that perhaps he should call the Legislature into an “unsession.”
After joking that it would be a session without the Legislature, he said it would be a session where lawmakers could eliminate things that no longer are needed. He suggested one action the session could consider was ditching instances where the state requires more than one report for a single project.
Bits and bites
+ Sen. Amy Klobuchar dropped into the summit via video to declare one of the major needs of Minnesota businesses is to reduce red tape the federal government places on the. She pledged to help do that.
+ Republicans were in short supply Tuesday, but Rep. Larry Howes of Walker was there. “It does get us talking,” he said about the summit, adding that he wanted to monitor whether there was any talk about public works projects that fall under his committee’s jurisdiction.
+ Klobuchar praised Alexandria Technical and Community College for its 96 percent placement rate for graduates.
+ University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler said he had the answer to the jobs problem: “Public higher education.” But like in other venues, he complained that state aid has fallen in recent years.
Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Pine Journal.