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Jim Hagedorn stops in Albert Lea to see construction at former Elks Lodge building

First District U.S. House Rep. Jim Hagedorn stopped in Albert Lea Friday to hear about construction underway at the former Elks Lodge, which is being turned into the new home for the Peterson, Kolker, Haedt & Benda law firm.

Lawyers Matt Benda and Dave Doppelhammer, along with construction superintendent Donn Richardson of Knutson Construction, met with Hagedorn and gave a short tour of some of the progress. Plans call for construction to be complete by Thanksgiving, Benda said.

Benda pointed out some of the changes in plans the business has made in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, including changing from cloth chairs in the lobby to ones that can be easily wiped off, along with other changes to help people feel safe when they come into the building.

Hagedorn, R-Blue Earth, commended them for their work and asked them what they had been hearing about other small businesses in the area and in the construction industry. He said regarding construction, he had heard that there was initial pullback in business but that the construction industry is doing well.

Richardson said that was similar to what he had experienced and noted that many contractors are playing catchup right now.

Benda said he had some clients who paused for a bit and then have picked up again.

He said his business was awarded a Small Business Administration guaranteed loan that helped them get lower interest for their construction project. It was also awarded funding through the Paycheck Protection Program earlier in the pandemic.

First District Congressman Jim Hagedorn speaks with Donn Richardson, superintendent for the project, in Albert Lea Friday morning. – Sarah Stultz/Albert Lea Tribune

“It was scary for awhile,” he said.

He said the Paycheck Protection Program had really made a difference for businesses in the community.

Hagedorn said Congress is working on another round of funding for businesses that have lost more than 25% of their revenue, such as restaurants, that will likely get approved after the election. Congress is also working on help for small chambers of commerce throughout the country, which have also felt the effects of the pandemic.

Benda said Hagedorn has been a champion for small businesses and thanked him for his support both for businesses and for the farming industry.

Hagedorn credited Doppelhammer, a former Albert Lea police officer who recently joined the firm, for his years in law enforcement.

Hagedorn also talked about the return of Waseca Officer Arik Matson, who was shot in January while responding to a call on duty, who came home earlier this week.

“That’s pretty heroic when you go and do a job and you don’t know what you’re going to encounter,” Hagedorn said.

Hagedorn, who is running against DFLer Dan Feehan of North Mankato in the Nov. 3 election, said he has made 50 stops throughout the district since the pandemic and has never missed a vote due to his Stage 4 kidney cancer.

He said he thought President Donald Trump did well in the debate Thursday night against former Vice President Joe Biden and said he thought Biden’s comments about the oil industry were “not very smart.”