Chamber of Commerce steps up to plate

Published 11:45 am Thursday, April 14, 2011

Column: Doug Olson, Guest Column

The Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce has been busy the first three months of 2011 working on the behalf of the Albert Lea and Freeborn County area.

Doug Olson

Whether dealing with legislative issues that directly impact the community or striving to improve the health of the community, the chamber works hard to fulfill its mission statement: “Promote and develop a healthy business climate and improve the quality of life in the Albert Lea-Freeborn County area.”

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In January, our executive director and others journeyed to St. Paul to take part in the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce’s annual session priorities event.

Rep. Rich Murray joined them as they listened to Gov. Mark Dayton and the House and Senate leadership share their views of the 2011 legislative session.

Later in the month, the Board of Directors, after evaluating the Minnesota Chamber’s position on local government aid took the unusual step of directly opposing the state chamber’s position.

We did this after reviewing that position through our governmental affairs committee and two board meetings.

Additionally, we supported resolutions calling for balancing the funding disparities in education and health care and in support of the Lessard-Sams Council’s recommendation that the Shell Rock River Watershed District receive $2,577,000 for the headwaters restoration project.

Chamber staff began working with the Teacher of the Year Committee during this month, as well.

Also in January, Albert Lea Superintendent Mike Funk joined Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Randy Kehr in attending an address to the Minnesota Chamber by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Our various committees continued to meet to plan their activities for the year, as well.

We closed out the month by co-sponsoring the Gourmet Auction with the Big Island Rendezvous at Wedgewood Cove Golf Club. The chamber staff works diligently to make this a special event for both organizations.

February brought a great deal of activity. It began with the business/education partnership committee participating in Career Day for eighth-graders at Southwest Middle School. The Chamber Foundation participates by providing the funds for the lunch provided to the speakers. Various members participated in sending the message that education is important whatever career path the student may choose.

Kehr joined Albert Lea Economic Development Agency Executive Director Dan Dorman, Mayor Vern Rasmussen and several councilors in participating in the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities legislative day.

They met with Rep. Murray and Sen. Dan Sparks that day to review relevant issues. The middle of the month brought The Big Freeze back for a second year.

Again, the chamber staff stepped up to make this event successful in drawing visitors to the community and into our businesses. Many chamber members participated in the event as sponsors.

Later in the month, various members joined our director in hearing a report on the state of manufacturing by Enterprise Minnesota.

Doug Olson is the chairman for the board of directors of the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce.