Column: Chamber committed to business

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 23, 2004

By David C. Olson, Minnesota Chamber president

In a column in the Albert Lea-Freebom County Chamber of Commerce Business Monthly, (February 2004), Representative Dan Dorman was critical of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce stating that the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce was “not on the side” of greater Minnesota. Nothing could be ftirther from the truth.

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce is the state’s largest business advocacy organization. More than 40 percent of our 2,800 members are located outside of the Twin Cities metropolitan area and 80 percent of our members have less than 100 employees. We have a long and successful tradition of advocating statewide policies that impact businesses independent of their geographic location.

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As a matter of fact, we go to great lengths to advocate policies that minimize regional differences and instead, build the statewide economy.

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce works on the issues our members have identified as having a significant impact on their businesses. The policy development process is extensive. We begin each May with a series of listening meetings around the state where we ask our members the issues they want us to work on. Last May and June, we scheduled 30 meetings, 24 of them in Greater Minnesota, including Albert Lea.

After obtaining input from our members, our policy committees, comprised of business leaders, develop draft policy. At the same time, a statistically valid member poll is conducted to ensure that the feedback we receive from the focus groups in May is consistent with the feedback from members who may not attend the meetings. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce board of directors, also representing businesses statewide, review each policy twice before final approval and delivery to the Legislature.

Every local chamber of commerce, including Albert Lea, is sent the draft policies for comment prior to final approval of the Board. Finally, as a last check, we scheduled another series of regional meetings around the state in November and December to test the policies and ask our members to prioritize them. There were 23 meetings late this fall, 18 in greater Minnesota, including one in neighboring Austin which Representative Dorman attended.

He saw firsthand that the business people in the room clearly supported our priorities for the 2004 session. As a former Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Board member (prior to be elected to the Minnesota legislature) Representative Dorman has been an active participant in our policy development process in the past and knows the great lengths that we go to ensure that we represent the interests of our members regardless of their location or size of their business.

Through this process, the priorities of member business were loud and clear and in this order: controlling health care costs; increasing transportation funding; passing job reference legislation; streamlining the environmental permit process; enhancing our electric generation system; and continued efforts to reform government spending.

We received no comment or feedback on the 41 draft policies we sent to the Albert Lea Chamber, nor did any of our business members raise the issues that Representative Dorman outlined in his column.

The Minnesota Chamber remains committed to growing our economy statewide both through our public policy efforts, and Grow Minnesota!, Grow Minnesota! is the chamber’s business retention and expansion effort in partnership with 27 local chambers of commerce who are making more than 500 calls on Minnesota businesses. The Minnesota Chamber is conducting all of our 130 retention visits in Greater Minnesota.

We have, and always will, continue to advocate policies that benefit all Minnesota companies and the statewide economy. I encourage you to contact me at any time if you have any questions about our members’ priorities.

(David C. Olson is president of the Minnesota Chamber.)