Walz meets with business officials

Published 9:17 am Wednesday, October 20, 2010

U.S. House Rep. Tim Walz, right, speaks with local business leaders Monday as Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Randy Kehr listens on. -- Sarah Stultz/Albert Lea Tribune

Four area business leaders expressed concerns about private sector job growth and how new regulations have affected independent community banks during a brief roundtable discussion Tuesday with 1st District U.S. Rep. Tim Walz.

Meeting with Randy Kehr, executive director of the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce, Laura Lunde, director of the local Manpower, Nancy Skophammer, president of Farmers State Bank of Albert Lea, and Raphael Herrera, owner of Plaza Morena Mexican Restaurant, Walz, DFL-Mankato, sought to seek input about what things Congress could do to help foster small business growth and what things may be hindering development.

The majority of the meeting was spent discussing how independent community banks have suffered from new mandates and regulations put in place as a result of the foreclosure crisis with larger lenders.

U.S. House Rep. Tim Walz, right, meets Tuesday with area business leaders at the Albert Lea Manpower in Northbridge Mall for a roundtable about business. -- Sarah Stultz/Albert Lea Tribune

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Skophammer said community banks are trying to lend but are having a difficult time because of regulations. She noted that as a small bank, she and her staff know their customers and they want them to succeed.

And because they weren’t involved with the foreclosure crisis, they are frustrated that they are having to deal with some of the new mandates, she said.

The group also talked about how someone like Herrera, who has had a successful business, should be able to get a loan if he chose to expand. But recently, that has become not as likely.

The visit came as Walz earlier this month released a new jobs plan, focusing on offering tools to small businesses to create new jobs.

The plan focuses on the following three areas:

Tax credits, tax cuts, access to capital, incentives for hiring.

Investments in infrastructure.

Stabilizing energy costs.

“Local businesses create jobs in our communities and they help us grow our local economies,” Walz said. “Southern Minnesotans have a right to hear about a vision for our future and ideas for putting us back on the path to prosperity.”

Walz also briefly talked about his support for the Albert Lea streetscape project, which has been submitted for a more than $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Walz is running against District 29A Rep. Randy Demmer, R-Hayfield, for the 1st District seat.