By Doug Loon
Greetings, friends! With my official start at the Minnesota Chamber on September 8, I am honored and excited to work with you to improve Minnesota’s business climate so employers and their employees can grow and succeed. I applaud your commitment to and investment in our communities. I look forward to listening, learning and working with all of you.
Promoting and protecting private-sector businesses, and the opportunities and value they create, is a deeply held commitment for me. I am humbled to lead that charge through Minnesota’s premier business organization and our vibrant statewide network of local chamber partners.
By way of background, I have spent the past 20 years at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 16 of those in Minnesota. As the vice president for regional affairs and advocacy, I managed the seven regional offices and the U.S. Chamber’s Midwest Region that includes Minnesota. I’ve been intimately involved in supporting state and local chambers and businesses to move public policy in a direction that helps them and the business community be successful. That mirrors the work of the Minnesota Chamber and our partners. The specific issues are many times different, but the process for success is remarkably similar.
Minnesota has been in the headlines lately for its strong economic performance, outperforming other states in many respects. That’s the direct result of our diverse industries, hardworking and highly educated workforce, abundant natural resources, and our innovative and entrepreneurial business leaders. We should celebrate our successes and build on our strengths.
Look beneath the headlines, though, and there are challenges. The CNBC poll released earlier this summer is a great example. Minnesota ranked as the top state for doing business, but the survey also revealed some troubling and persistent facts. Everyone, especially policy-makers, should be concerned that Minnesota ranks 35th in the cost of doing business and has one of the highest tax rates in the nation. It’s not just about taxes and regulations. It’s also about creating a business climate so employers and employees want to stay here and grow here. That means a skilled and ready workforce, a transparent and responsible regulatory structure, and a willingness to tackle the policies that make Minnesota a less competitive place to do business.
It’s the job of the Minnesota Chamber and our local chamber partners to advance this discussion at the State Capitol. Your voice is the most critical part of that process. Policy-makers hear and remember your stories, especially so when they are making decisions that affect everything from your overall business strategy to everyday operations. Our collaborative efforts yield a powerful collective voice. As one member says, “As just one small employer, my voice is pretty much a whisper. When I combine it with the thousands of other Minnesota businesses that belong to this organization, it becomes a roar.”
For the benefit of all Minnesota employers and employees, let’s build our work together. I look forward to seeing you on the road and learning how we can make Minnesota a better place to start, run and grow a business.
Doug Loon is president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce – www.mnchamber.com.