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Chamber brings contingent to Business Day at the Capitol

By Barry Bergquist

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The Cloquet Area Chamber of Commerce sponsored 40 area attendees for the Minnesota Chamber’s “Business Day at the Capitol” held on March 19, but because of the snowstorm the day before, only 30 people participated.  

The group consisted of members of the Cloquet Area Chamber and the Cloquet Chamber Leadership Program. The group was led by Chamber President Kelly Zink and I, in my capacity as chair of the Legislative Affairs Committee.

The purpose of Business Day at the Capitol is to meet face-to-face with our legislators and discuss issues facing the state of Minnesota. The group met with Representative Mike Sundin and Senator Tony Lourey.  Among the many topics discussed were the proposed minimum wage increase, the importance of repealing the business to business tax imposed last year, the Minnesota Estate Tax and the anti-bullying bill.   Both the House and Senate want to increase the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour, and Representative Sundin and Senator Lourey are in favor of the $9.50 increase. Some of our members felt this would lead to layoffs and price increases.

Another hot issue was the $1.2 billion revenue surplus collected this year and what to do with those funds. The House, Senate and Governor appear to have differing ideas on what to do with the surplus. Participants thanked the legislators for taking time out of their busy schedules to hear the group’s opinions and concerns.

In addition to meeting with Legislators, the group had a brief tour of the Capitol building including the Governor’s grand reception room, learned about the building’s historic artwork and architecture, and were educated on the many portraits of famous Minnesotans hanging throughout the hallways.   

The day also included a luncheon at the Crown Plaza Hotel in St. Paul.  Governor Mark Dayton was invited to speak, but recent hip surgery prevented his appearance.

The featured keynote speaker was Mark Larson, president of Digi-Key Corporation. Digi-Key, located in Thief River Falls, is the sixth largest electronic distributor in America with over a billion dollars in sales.  Larson focused on Minnesota’s new S-Corporation tax of 7.85 percent which is one of the highest in the nation.  This puts Minnesota-owned S-Corp companies at a disadvantage to their competitors. He suggested the tax be lowered to match other states, making for a more level playing field. His facts and figures on this taxation of Minnesota businesses were incredibly compelling.

The Cloquet Area Chamber of Commerce makes this an annual event and finds value in bringing business leaders to the Capitol to represent our area. If you would like to learn more about the day or attend in the future contact the Cloquet Area of Chamber office at 218-879-1551.