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.

Waseca Area Job Fair sponsored by Quad Graphics

When: Monday April 3rd from 2:00 to 5:00 PM Where: Starfire Event Center
206 2nd Avenue SW
Waseca, MN 56093

Companies Participating: Job Openings:
Bosch: Engineering (variety of openings); Material Handler; Program Manager – Original Equipment Sales; Special Tools & Equipment Intern
Cambria: Warehouse Operator, Production Operator, Maintenance Tech, Quality Assurance Inspector, and Truck Driver
Cinch Connectivity: Warehouse Supervisor; Plater; Systems Support Technician
Delta Waseca: Territory Sales Manager; New Product Launch Intern; Plus more possibilities!
Jack Links: Sanitation; Packaging; Machine Operator; Food Safety & Quality Mgr.; Inventory Control Analyst; (All shifts)
Mankato Packaging: Finishing Assistant; Folder/Gluer Operator; Offset Sheet-fed Press Operator; Die Cutter Operator; Customer Service Representative
Mayo Healthcare: Variety of openings available on
Mediacom: Broadband Specialist I; Summer Intern, Marketing & Sales
Taylor Companies: Printing Production Openings, including: Machine Operators; Customer Service Rep.’s and Shipping Rep.’s
Carlson Craft:
Corporate Graphic’s Commercial:
Schmidt Printing, Inc. :
TBEI: 10 welders, FT & PT; Weld educational opportunities also available
Verizon: Customer service and retail sales
Walmart Distr. Center: Lift Driver; Driver Hauler; Order-filler (different shifts);
Wenger Corporation: 1st and 2nd shift Manufacturing Positions; Welding; Turret Operator; Customs Lamination; Assembly; Cabinet (machining) Department; Powder Paint; Associate Product Manager;
Global Sr. Buyer; Senior Financial Analyst; IT Advanced Applications Developer
Winegar, Inc: CNC Machinist; Machine Operator
*Additional Companies Possible!

Please bring copies of your resume.
Be prepared to fill out job applications and for possible interviews.
Co-Sponsored by the Waseca County Economic Development Association (EDA), The Waseca Chamber of Commerce and the MN Workforce Centers

*If you need suitable accommodation to attend this event please contact Sam at the Starfire; 507-461-1387 or Randy at the Mankato Workforce Center; 507-344-2622.

*DEED and the MN Workforce Centers are Equal Opportunity Employers and Service Providers

Proclamation – National Agriculture Week


Whereas:               American Agriculture is the foundation of our country; and

Whereas:                National Agriculture Week recognizes and celebrates
the abundance provided by American agriculture; and

Whereas:              National Agriculture Week wants to help young people
acknowledge and consider career opportunities in  agriculture,                                 food and fiber industries; and

Whereas:               There is over 7 billion people in the world to feed; and

Whereas:               Each American farmer feeds about 144 people.  Agriculture                                         is America’s #1 export.

Now, therefore, I  Mayor Roy Srp on behalf of City of Waseca and Waseca Area Chamber of Commerce businesses, do hereby proclaim that the week of March 19 to 25, 2017 shall be observed as:





Business Day at the Capitol

Waseca Area Chamber’s Leadership class , chamber board member and chamber staff spending the day at the MN State Capital, hearing about bills, issues and challenges to Grow MN. They met with Senator John Jasinski and Carolyn Jackson on updates with the Highway 14 funding options to complete 4 lanes from Rochester to New Ulm. Enjoyed great networking over lunch provided by MN Chamber and listened to panel speakers on Health care.

The group spent their first stop of the day at the Junior Achievement BizTown. A great program where 5th and 6th graders come and learn about business, banking and government through sceneries they complete. The group ended their day with a tour of the beautifully renovated capital. A special thank you to Lake Crystal Coaches for chauffeuring us and Casey’s North Waseca for providing our morning pastries.

Waseca’s next emerging leaders taking an interest in leadership voices representing Waseca.

Waseca Chamber at Work

By President Kim Foels

The Waseca Area Chamber at work building a better business community for 63 years now. We are a member driven organization of businesses and individuals who band together for the collective best interest of developing Waseca’s future. Looking back on a great year at the Waseca Area Chamber, here is a recap of some of our programs and initiatives.

‘Grow Minnesota’ a chamber Business Development initiative – visiting with our local businesses, listening sessions and utilizing the feedback from our interviews to assist businesses and shape local policies. Partnered with MN Chamber promoting an online ‘Business Resource Center’– filled with resources for business questions and answers – Also check out the resource section. One of the chamber’s biggest accomplishments in 2016 was a new responsive website and launched a new Business & Community video and blog. Check it out

We welcomed 16 new members and added new enhancements to our online Business Directory, with a web portal member information center where members can list their job postings, member to member deals and specials for the public that will post on our social media. Networking is a high priority for chamber members with multiple gatherings hosted through the year to create opportunities to connect our members.

It is important to the chamber that we celebrate the community successes, as we held 3 award recognition events in 2016. Our Ambassador’s committee focus is business outreach efforts. These business leaders visited 32 businesses last year presenting Progress Awards to businesses that are new or invested in expansion and renovation of their business.

 Waseca Proud-Promotion of Buy Local initiative- the chamber sells Chamber Bucks that can be redeemed at over 100 chamber member businesses and annually in November we encourage the national event “Shop Small Day” that promotes local member retailers. Welcoming new residents to town we partnered with “Welcome Services For You” with 104 new resident relocation packets for 2106.

Annually we recognize Manufacturers Week – presenting a Governor signed manufacturer’s appreciation certificate at our October Business and Industry Luncheon event.  The chamber’s Workforce and Education committee wanted to expose students to our local manufacturing businesses and the outcome was we coordinated 150 seventh grade students to tour local manufacturers. Our AgriBusiness committee recognizes National Ag Week with coordinating the Agricultural awards presented at the annual March Farm and City Luncheon event.

Waseca Chamber’s affiliations are: Federation Member of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce – supporting state legislative priorities to support business sector and job growth, Greater Minnesota Partnership advocating for rural public policy for business, US Highway 14 Partnership, advocating completion 4-lane Rochester to New Ulm and Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest – bringing financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship into local schools

Our chamber’s collaborative programs are:’ Discover Waseca Careers’ program – coordinating Waseca Public School where a class of senior students tour 2 local businesses monthly. We are currently facilitating our Biennial 9 month LEADERSHIP Greater Waseca Academy where the next emerging leaders are provided an in-depth look at key elements of leadership, businesses and community

2017 faces some great opportunities and equally some challenges for rural communities. Together we can engage in key issues, and businesses and individuals must continue to play a vital role in the quality and growth of our community. Chambers are here to help. You can reach Kim Foels at 507 835 3260.

Health Care: More options for small business

Source:  Minnesota Chamber of Commerce

The Minnesota Chamber has long advocated for changes in state law to increase small employers’ options for providing health insurance to their employees. Our push for more options has become increasingly important in recent years as small employers have struggled to keep up with rising costs in the fully-insured small group market. As evidence of this, the number of small employers in the small group market has shrunk by 8,000 employers. That’s roughly 1/3 of the small group market.

Last week, Governor Dayton signed into law SF 1, bipartisan legislation providing premium relief to those buying health insurance in the individual health insurance market in 2017. While providing relief to the individual market was certainly the focus of the legislation, the bill also included important Chamber-backed provisions for small employers.

Increased access to self-insuring for small employers
SF 1 includes provisions making it easier for small employers in Minnesota to consider self-insuring their health plan offerings. Most large employers self-insure, rather than buying health insurance for their employees. This gives them more flexibility over plan design and more control over costs. Self-insuring does entail risk for the employer, and so most small employers use stop loss coverage to help manage the financial risks associated with self-insuring. The Chamber successfully advocated for provisions to remove the artificial distinction that’s currently in statute between small employers and larger employers that limits small employers’ access to only certain types of stop loss insurance, which often requires them to take on greater financial risk. The changes will allow small employers to take on the same proportional risk as large employers.

Pre-Tax Defined Contribution Arrangements
With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, any small employer who attempted to set up defined contribution arrangements to help employees buy individual health insurance plans had to do so with after-tax dollars. This required both the employee and the employer to pay a premium for the individual health insurance plans employees purchased. In December 2016, Congress passed legislation allowing small employers to use Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) to help employees purchase individual health insurance with pre-tax dollars. In order for small employers in Minnesota to take advantage of this change in federal law, however, changes were needed in Minnesota statute. The Chamber successfully advocated for inclusion of these changes.
As you consider how best to continue your commitment to supporting the health and well-being of your employees and their families, talk to your broker or benefits adviser about whether these new coverage options are the right fit for you. You can also contact the Chamber’s Director of Health Policy, Bentley Graves, with questions at

Apply for SBA Disaster Assistance Before January 30

Source:  U.S. Small Business Administration

Apply for SBA Disaster Assistance Before the January 30
Physical Damage Application Deadline

ATLANTA – The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) encourages businesses of all sizes, private nonprofit organizations, homeowners and renters to apply for a disaster loan before the Jan. 30, 2017 deadline.  Anyone in the declared counties in Minnesota affected by severe storms and flooding from Sept. 21 – 24, 2016 should apply for the disaster recovery loan program.

The disaster declaration covers the counties of Blue Earth, Freeborn, Hennepin, Le Sueur, Rice, Steele and Waseca in Minnesota which are eligible for both Physical and Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the SBA.  Small businesses and most private nonprofit organizations in the following adjacent counties are eligible to apply only for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans: Anoka, Brown, Carver, Dakota, Dodge, Faribault, Goodhue, Martin, Mower, Nicollet, Ramsey, Scott, Sherburne, Sibley, Watonwan and Wright in Minnesota; Winnebago and Worth counties in Iowa.

SBA disaster loans are available to businesses of all sizes, most private nonprofit organizations, homeowners and renters to cover uninsured losses from the disaster.  Interest rates are as low as 4 percent for businesses, 2.625 percent for private nonprofit organizations, and 1.563 percent for homeowners and renters.  Loan terms can be up to 30 years.

To be considered for all forms of disaster assistance, applicants should register online at or download the FEMA mobile app.  If the online or mobile access is unavailable, applicants should call the FEMA toll-free helpline at 800-621-3362. Those who use
711-Relay or Video Relay Services should call 800-621-3362.

Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA’s secure website at

Disaster loan information and application forms may also be obtained by calling the SBA’s Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 (800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard-of-hearing) or by sending an email to

Loan applications can be downloaded from  Completed applications can be returned to a recovery center or mailed to: U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.

The filing deadline to submit applications for physical property damage is Jan. 30, 2017. The deadline for economic injury applications is Aug. 29, 2017.

For more information about the SBA’s Disaster Loan Program, visit our website at