Chamber’s MN Supplier Match aims to boost B2B sales

Resource: Finance & Commerce, Todd Nelson

Minnesota companies hoping to sell or buy more goods and services locally have a new way to connect with one another at MN Supplier Match, an online business-to-business database recently launched by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber began working on the database about 18 months ago, said Sean O’Neil, business development coordinator at the chamber.

Some of the chamber’s more than 2,300 members wanted “something more systematic and accessible” to search for in-state suppliers, O’Neil said.

“We’re hoping it’s a tool that allows for that more organic way of finding suppliers in your own backyard,” O’Neil said. “A lot of companies want to find suppliers closer to home.”

MN Supplier Match could help some of the state’s smaller companies get on the radar of some of its biggest.

“We have been working with some of the state’s largest Fortune 500 companies to help them expand their local supply chain,” Vicki Stute, the chamber’s vice president of programs and service, said in a statement.

Sourcing from local suppliers offers advantages including “customization, accessibility, rapid delivery, shared networks and trusted quality,” Stute said. “And (the database) creates value for the Minnesota economy by keeping more dollars in the state and making our suppliers and buyers more competitive.”

More than 460 businesses were registered for MN Supplier Match when it launched in January, O’Neil said. The chamber’s goal is to have more than 1,000 businesses in the database by year’s end.

Buyers seeking to access the database must be chamber members, O’Neil said. The cost of a chamber membership starts at $695 and is based on the number of employees a company has in Minnesota.

Suppliers on MN Supplier Match must be chamber members or must have had a visit from Grow Minnesota!, the chamber’s business retention and assistance program, O’Neil said.

More than 7,000 businesses statewide have had such visits during the past 15 years, O’Neil said. The visits are from the chamber or one of more than 70 local chambers and economic development organizations. The company visits help assess business conditions in the state by tracking issues related to workforce, innovation, exports and capital investment plans.

Registered companies can search the database by keyword or one of 60 preset product and service categories, O’Neil said. Users can filter results by criteria including a company’s location, the industries it serves, and whether it is a business owned by minorities, women or veterans.

Kevin McKinnon, deputy commissioner of economic development at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, said small manufacturers in the state may be among those who benefit from MN Supplier Match.

“We have an incredible and diverse manufacturing base here in our state,” said McKinnon, who has worked closely with the Grow Minnesota! program. “A lot of our companies — and particularly a lot of our small companies — have significant capacity and ability to serve a variety of industries.”

Bret Weiss, president and CEO of Golden Valley-based WSB & Associates, already has registered WSB on MN Supplier Match. The professional consulting and design firm offers engineering, planning, environmental and construction services to government, energy and commercial clients.

“The stronger we make the state of Minnesota by working together and having a strong economy here with money and profits that are left inside of Minnesota, the better it is for all of us,” Weiss said.

While WSB works across the country, Weiss said he hopes the database will lead to new local opportunities for the firm. At the same time the chamber member said he will use it to find other chamber members to do business with on future projects, including some upcoming marketing needs.

Kris Palestrini, owner of Roseville-based Minnesota Industrial Battery, is another chamber member registered with MN Supplier Match. Minnesota Industrial Battery sells, services and maintains batteries for forklifts and lift trucks in Minnesota and surrounding states, Palestrini said.
Palestrini bought the company 18 months ago from his father-in-law Gene Slattum, who founded it in 1982.

“I’m hoping we get some phone calls and some interest from it,” Palestrini said. “Sometimes it just takes a click or two to get recognition and an opportunity.”

10 Simple Marketing Ideas Your Small Business can do for Christmas Season

Author: Gregg McLachlan

I had a small business owner tell me the other day that he would not be doing any festive season marketing because he didn’t have time to pull anything together. WHAT!? I almost fell face first on the floor.

If you don’t take the time to give your business a little oomph during one of the most important retail times of the year, don’t complain if sales are down and fewer shoppers are coming through the door.

There are always easy marketing initiatives that every small retail shop can do during the festive season, even those retailers who say they have no time.

Here are 10 ridiculously simple ideas you can implement today:

  1. Reward your social media fans

This is so simple. You have fans on social media. Many of them love what you do. That’s why they follow and Like you. So create a coupon that is exclusive to social media for those fans. All they have to do is bring their phone with them to your store, show you the coupon that you posted, and bingo, they get the deal. And best of all, you can easily count the coupons and track how well this tactic works.

  1. Use location-based social advertising

Social media tools have incredible location-based advertising capabilities today. That gives you an advantage to target shoppers who are close by. Take advantage of that! Especially on weekends.

  1. Support a local charity by hosting a fundraising drive

Your community has lots of charities. Sure, there are the regular ones that many businesses partner with, but there are also other worthwhile ones that may not get as much attention. Just remember to focus on the cause, not corporate self-serving stuff that screams “Hey, look at what we’re doing, we’re a great business!” Your actions supporting the cause will do the talking for you.

  1. Go out into the community and serve a lunch or a breakfast

Choose a worthwhile recipient and bring lunch or desserts and share some joy. Oh, and consider bringing along a musician. Maybe even a little goodie bag. You’ll be contributing to community-building and leaving a place with a whole bunch of smiles after you leave.

  1. Hold a contest

There are so many simple ideas here that can help get your fans and audiences involved. You might hold a contest where people post photos of their Christmas tree, baked goods, or elves on shelves. Or you could invite people to pop into your store or restaurant wearing their ugliest Christmas sweater and be entered into a contest. Use your imagination but don’t complicate it.

  1. Host an exclusive night for your best customers

The festive season is a great time to host a special evening, outside of regular hours, where your best customers are invited to stop by for a visit and receive a token of your appreciation. Add a cheese tray and some refreshments. And some free giveaways. And some special one-night only prices for these best customers, and voila, you’ve got a fun evening of holiday cheer.

  1. Hold a 12 Days of 12 Products sale

You need to attract people to come in to your store. So give them an attractant. One product at an awesome sale price (please, please remember that 10% off is not an attractant!) for each of the 12 days. If you miss the day, you miss that product at that great price.

  1. Host Live at Lunch days

Your community has up and coming musicians. Give them a space to play short sets during lunch hours. And just like that you’ve got a mini intimate concert series. And you don’t have to be a food shop to do this idea. It can work in many retail stores with space.

  1. Get some branded limited edition holiday products

It is amazing what you can get branded these days. And the days of having to order a minimum 3000 items are gone. That means it doesn’t cost an arm and leg to get a low quantity of branded products that you can use as special limited edition sale items or gifts for spending $50 or more in store. Just make sure it has some value. Giving away a pen with your logo on it, to someone who spends $50 or more is a fail.

  1. Create fun-filled holiday videos

Videos are hugely popular today. We all know that. You can use video to show your personable side and leave viewers smiling (and hopefully inspire them to drop by). The big thing with these videos is having fun! Humour and fun generates engagement. Here’s what doesn’t generate engagement: Avoid doing those tired overdone cliche videos where 30 people stand in a line and shout Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, and worse still, the produced video has mistletoe clipart as a frame. Tacky. Those videos were are all the rage in 1980s in on-air ads at low budget independent cable TV stations. What are some ideas? Well, a great videographer can help you easily and affordably do some creative videos that suit your style.



Gregg McLachlan is recognized as a leading trainer, marketing rethinker and rural social media strategist in southwestern Ontario who works with small businesses and organizations who want to elevate their branding. He has been a conference and workshop guest speaker for rural downtown business associations, municipal economic development departments and tourism organizations, as well as provincial and national organizations. His newest conference and workshop talk, 2017 Is Sooooo Yesterday, helps organizations understand how social media is evolving and how to stay ahead and be effective. Contact Gregg at

NOVEMBER 25, 2017



Health Insurance Relief


Minnesota employers with 50 or fewer employees have some new options to consider for health coverage in 2018, thanks to 2017 legislation spearheaded by the Minnesota Chamber. New laws allow small employers to consider “defined contribution” arrangements to support their employees in purchasing their own individual health insurance and make it easier for these small employers to consider self-funding. READ MORE>>

MN Supplier Match Database

New – MN Supplier Match Database

Do you have products and services that can benefit other Minnesota companies?

This is a new Grow MN program seeking to highlight Minnesotans robust supply chain and increase business-to-business activity in the state.   It creates value for the MN businesses who want the advantages of sourcing from local suppliers: accessibility, rapid delivery, shared networks, and trusted quality. It also creates value for suppliers looking for new business opportunities with MN based customers. This new searchable database is to launch later this year and will be used by companies around the state- including some of MN largest Fortune 500 companies that would like to find and do business with MN suppliers.

This searchable data base is created by the Minnesota Chamber for the Grow MN partners. The listing is free if you have received a Grow MN business visit from a participating Grow MN Chamber.  The Waseca Area Chamber is a Grow MN member and has scheduled Grow MN visits to over 80 businesses in the past years with our members. If you would like to have our Chamber Grow MN team visit with your company to learn all about your business, please give us a call and schedule one today.

Waseca Area MN Job Match


Connecting area employers with ideal job candidates, focusing on helping businesses develop and retain the workforce in MN. Do you want to cut time and costs of recruiting and job searching?

The Minnesota Chamber announces the new labor market tool, the MN Job Match, and their partnership with the RealTime Talent Exchange. This has received significant financial support from the MN Legislature and the Office of Higher Education. This tool is designed to bring employers and candidates together in a more efficient manner, saving both parties time and money. This is not your average job board; it has a blind match technology pre-screening of candidates to find the right fit for you faster, matching job seekers to your job openings. This tool revolutionizes the recruiting process connecting your business with quality candidates.  It uses sophisticated blind matching algorithms to connect job seekers and employers based on skills, interests and job requirements.

With your posting you are provided with integrated promotion through social media and email, automated candidate pool demographic reports, automatic posting to other local, regional and national job sites. Job seekers never pay and this offers an affordable cost to the employer.

Waseca Area Chamber is in partnership as a Grow MN member and they are bringing this tool to all GROW MN Chamber partners. Check out the Waseca Chamber’s Job Match new portal, where employers can login. There is a small fee to post jobs, and job seekers can easily apply for opportunities. The match happens when candidates apply to work in a community. They’ll answer occupation- specific questions driven by more than 1000,000 unique job characteristics and backed by extensive research. Their application will be scored, screened and stack ranked, so employers can find the best person for the job, faster than ever before.



Banner year for business community at Legislature

Source: Doug Loon - President of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce 

The 2017 legislative session was one of the most successful for Chamber members in years. The Minnesota Chamber and our local chamber partners can equivocally say we delivered on your priorities. It was an outstanding year on several fronts, thanks to the tremendous engagement of our statewide grassroots network. These legislative successes will better position Minnesota to be ready for the future – ready for change and ready to grow.

The biggest disappointment was Governor Dayton’s veto of the Uniform State Labor Standards Act, which would have explicitly prevented local governments from mandating local wage and benefit packages on private employers. We staunchly oppose government interference – at any level – in private-sector employee benefits. The worst-case scenario is a local patchwork of mandates that impose different rules and requirements across our state.  Our fight continues in the courts as we advance our litigation against the city of Minneapolis regarding its paid sick and safe time mandate.

On other fronts, there’s a wealth of good news to report. Among the highlights of our legislative successes:

Taxes: We worked to pass the largest tax reduction bill since 2001 and the first tax bill signed into law since 2014. The automatic annual inflator in the statewide property tax was eliminated, and the first $100,000 of a property’s market will be exempt from the state levy. The tax credit for research and development was enhanced. The threshold for the estate tax was increased. An individual’s use of Minnesota financial advisers, accountants, etc., will no longer be used to determining residency for tax purposes.

Transportation: We delivered the largest investment in roads and bridges since 2008 – and without an increase in taxes or fees. Existing tax from the sale of auto parts and rental vehicles that now goes into the general fund will be directed to roads and bridges, resulting in nearly $2 billion over 10 years. The Minnesota Department of Transportation will continue to focus on efficiencies. Metro counties will be allowed to expand the light rail and bus rapid transit systems through generation of local option sales tax revenues. In addition, funding is provided over the next biennium to address the current deficit and to ensure regular bus service in the metro area

Real ID: Minnesota became the last remaining state to comply with the federal law so Minnesotans can continue using their current driver’s license to board airplanes and enter federal facilities when the federal law takes effect in January 2018.

Health care: Qualifying Minnesotans who buy insurance in the individual market, and don’t receive federal premium support, will receive a 25% reduction in premiums this year. Small employers will have expanded options to self-insure like most large companies do – giving them more control over costs and flexibility in plan design.

Lawsuit reform: Plaintiffs represented by an attorney must provide a notice of an alleged accessibility violation and give businesses 60 days to respond (30 days longer for weather conditions) before a lawsuit can be filed for state claims under the Minnesota Human Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. This new law is effective now, curtailing the abusive lawsuits that have been plaguing small businesses across Minnesota during the past several years. 

Environmental regulations: Applicants can request a schedule that details when agencies will begin drafting a permit and when it will be issued for public notice. For expedited permits, applicants will receive a description of tasks to be performed, a schedule for completing the tasks and cost estimates.

Education/workforce development: School districts must negotiate a plan for how teachers are laid off due to budgets, and not defer to the fallback rule of LIFO – “last in, first out” – where seniority prevails over performance. The teacher licensure governance system is reformed, and a tiered teacher licensure structure will be created, which will help to ensure there is an effective teacher in every classroom.

Energy: Reforms to the Renewable Development Fund include changing the expensive biomass power mandate, yielding about $700 million in ratepayer savings over 11 years.

We have much to celebrate in our shared success. And, of course, with our legislative efforts wrapped up at the Capitol, we are ready to develop our 2018 agenda. We welcome your engagement as we lay the foundation to make Minnesota ready to compete in the global marketplace.

How to tell if you’re at risk from the WannaCry ransomware and what to do if you have been attacked

Source:  Chamber Speak, TechTransformers, CNBC, Pantheon Computers

At latest count, WannaCry, the ransomware virus that was launched late last week, has impacted more than 200,000 businesses in 150 countries, and many more organizations may be at risk. Ransomware is a type of computer virus that locks files on a computer, preventing the user from accessing them. The files may be unlocked after the user pays the cyberattacker a ransom. A single attack can be devastating for a business.

Jill Stagman, MSP Engineer from Pantheon Computers says, “cybercrimes such as ransomware are becoming more popular each day. Taking steps to safeguard yourself from malware is best accomplished through multi-angled approach. The first is educating yourself on safe browsing habits such as not clicking on links unless you know where they originate from, using a skeptics eye when reviewing an email, even from someone you may know there could be malicious content embedded in the message, and change your passwords often and enforce multi-factor authentication. Secondly purchasing products such as SPAM filtering and Virus/Malware prevention software is small price to pay for the insurance you will receive in protecting your data. Third and the one I see people miss the most is using a DNS filtering service to weed out corrupt websites. Finally, if all else fails you need to have a quality backup solution in place to recover from if your data has been compromised from an encryption based malware such as WannaCry.”

You can contact a Waseca Chamber member Pantheon Computers for any questions on this topic at

Have You Taken A Good Look at Waseca Area lately?

From Kim Foels, President –  Waseca Area Chamber of Commerce

Have you taken a good look at Waseca area lately?  I’m not just talking about a glance; I’m talking about a stop and smell the roses look.  There is much more to see and appreciate.  There are many awe-inspiring things in our area we call home.

As you drive through our streets and avenues it’s easy to miss more than you see.  Take a moment with me as I guide you on an imaginary tour of our great community.

Notice the many and varied businesses all about the area.  Some are new and looking for their niche with hopes of being successful.  Many have been around long enough to carry themselves through good and hard times, growth and uncertainty.  Others are large, established businesses that are always consistent, ever surviving.  They have chosen Waseca as the home for their business which speaks highly of what we have to offer.  Ask yourself this question.  Where would Waseca area be without these businesses providing our local economic base?

Waseca has a history in agriculture.  Many farmers and agricultural partners in the area contribute greatly to Waseca’s economy and way of life.  Behind the corn and bean fields our farmers are quietly at work.  They are not always visible as you look around Waseca but they are ever present, providing for us the substance on which we live.

Then there’s our history.  Many downtown buildings and residential homes hold the stories of our past.  Our Central Trowbridge Park with the band shell and our historic museum hold a distinct richness.  The Waseca Courthouse can’t be missed with its marble, clock and green spaces.  Our forefathers planned long and hard on the style and image of our community,  The beautiful tree-lined, Elm Avenue with large mature trees providing beauty, shade and protection to our streets, the beautiful parks, trails and lakes for family fun – all offering a place to gather and enjoy.

The arts are alive and well.  The variety available to us as residents is amazing.  The amenities go on and on in Waseca – skydiving, archery, golf, tennis, swimming, trails, camping, baseball, farmers market, festivals, and more.

What does the Waseca Area Chamber of Commerce do?  The Chamber of Commerce is governed by 11 members from the membership, who meet monthly to carry out the business of the organization.  Their mission – Representing Business – Enhancing Community – Promoting Growth. The Chamber of Commerce is an action organization designed to meet business needs.  It is a volunteer organization of individuals and businesses who band together for the collective best interest of developing Waseca’s future.

Walk to the Park Day at beautiful historic downtown Trowbridge on Thursday, June 8th.  Take a break at noob hour and enjoy a box lunch picnic, $9.75 each.  Fresh air by Mother Nature and good times by DJ Kozy.  Summer is short, work is always, so let’s take a break from it all and get together.  This is a chamber member picnic created by the Board of Directors, Ambassadors and staff in appreciation of all our members and their employees.  Please RSVP by Friday, June 2nd.  If you are thinking of becoming a new member of the Chamber of Commerce and would like to attend please RSVP.  We would love to have you as a visitor.

Minnesota Apprenticeship Initiative


The Minnesota Apprenticeship Initiative (MAI) is on track to bring 1,000 people into newly registered apprenticeship programs in 30 high-growth occupations in Minnesota in the next five years.

What is an apprenticeship? It’s a combination of on-the-job training and related instruction in which employees learn both the practical and theoretical aspects of an occupation.

Seventy Minnesota employers will expand and create registered apprenticeship programs in industries that typically don’t have apprenticeships, through a $5 million U.S. Department of Labor grant.

Participants – including people of color, women, veterans, people with disabilities and young adults – will receive classroom and on-the-job training. Workers will have the opportunity to gain skills, advance their careers and earn better pay.

Employers are eligible to receive up to $5,000 for each registered apprentice, covering the cost of support activities, supplies and materials, instruction costs and more.

The grants will focus on five industries that were chosen based on employer needs and data showing they will be facing labor shortages in the next 10 years: advanced manufacturing, agriculture, health care services, information technology and transportation. The grants are designed to help employers create long-term, sustainable registered apprenticeship programs that continue beyond the life of the grant.

DEED and the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry are partnering in the program, providing outreach and recruitment, assessments, adult basic education, support services, and on-the-job and industry-recognized credential training.

Owens Corning was the First

MAI’s first registered apprenticeship program was rolled out last year at Owens Corning in Minneapolis. The business makes roofing products (shingles and accessories) and insulation.

Owens Corning employee Brandon Carlsen is a maintenance mechanic apprentice. He is completing related classes at Hennepin Technical College, including courses in pneumatic components, advanced programmable logic controllers and fluid power technology.

His on-the-job training includes preventive and corrective maintenance, troubleshooting, and pipefitting and plumbing (welding, fabrication, brazing, soldering and other jointing processes). Carlsen has been in the program for nine months, and managers say he has far exceeded their expectations.

Owens Corning has used the program to recruit job candidates. The company plans to enroll 10 apprentices under the MAI grant; and when Carlsen finishes the program, he will mentor them.

More details about the program are available at the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry website.