CHAMBER ANNOUNCES NEW FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FOR ADULT LEARNERS

Much has been said about the need in our local businesses for workers whose skills line up with the jobs available.  That is especially true in jobs that require technical or vocational training.  To respond to the need, the Litchfield Chamber of Commerce has created a new scholarship program targeted specifically to financially assist adult learners as they pursue job skills training.

To be eligible applicants must complete an application form and provide a letter of recommendation from a Litchfield Chamber member.  A committee of volunteers will interview applicants and select the scholarship winners.  If awarded a scholarship, applicants will be required to provide proof of enrollment in their educational program prior to receiving the award.  Application deadline is August 18, 2014.

The Chamber’s Board of Directors has allocated up to four, $500.00 scholarships to be awarded in August, 2014.

According to Dee Schutte, Executive Director for the Chamber, “The Litchfield Area Chamber of Commerce has a history of fulfilling a unique niche with its scholarship programs. As students enroll in technical or vocational training programs, the avenues for scholarship opportunities become somewhat limited. This is particularly true of the adult learner.  The new financial assistance program provides an opportunity for these students to receive financial assistance.”

The scholarship program is supported by donations from Chamber members.   Applications are available at www.litch.com or by calling the Chamber at (320) 693-8184.

Application Form 2014 – Career Path

Legislature leaves its mark; circle November 4

The 2014 Legislature is history, and its impacts may be long lasting. The results for business priorities were mixed.
To be certain, no one legislative session makes or breaks the state’s economy. It will take a few years to really know the impact of this session. Important, however is the effect of legislative actions on the mindset of employers. That’s worrisome as we increasingly hear about Minnesota businesses rethinking their plans to invest and grow here.
The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and our local partners across the state made progress in spite of a session that overall proved challenging for businesses. We, along with the United for Jobs Coalition, scored an early and significant victory in repealing all three of the 2013 business-to-business sales taxes – a direct savings to companies’ bottom lines. These taxes would have totaled $314 million for Fiscal Year 2014-2015 alone.
Other accomplishments included:
• Environmental regulations: We shortened the environmental permitting timetable to better reflect the actual average time of processing. Permits not requiring a public comment period must be completed within 90 days, and those requiring a public comment period within 150 days.
• Education/workforce: Several of our education priorities advanced, including improving the information parents receive about student progress, expanding opportunities for students to earn college credit while in high school, and better aligning workforce preparation with workforce needs through industry-developed training programs.
• Transportation: We insisted that Department of Transportation make progress on maximizing dollars through more efficient use of resources. The Minnesota Department of Transportation is required to identify 5% in cost-savings in its FY 2015 budget, allowing nearly $50 million from existing tax dollars to be redeployed to transportation projects – without increasing taxes.

Successes notwithstanding, the legislative landscape was challenging on many fronts to pass pro-jobs legislation and block anti-jobs measures. Leading our concerns:
• Minimum wage: The state’s minimum wage will be phased in to $9.50 on August 1, 2016. Starting in 2018 and ongoing, the wage will increase automatically with inflation. We supported conforming to federal rate of $7.25 to align with our neighboring states.
• Workplace mandates:  We succeeded in mitigating costs for several new employer mandates and defeated some particularly onerous measures. Requirements include expanded sick leave, new accommodations and remedies for nursing mothers and pregnant employees, and an expansion of required unpaid pregnancy leave from the current six weeks to 12 weeks. Among other measures, employers cannot restrict employees from disclosing their wages or discipline them for doing so.  Employers seeking to do business with the state face burdensome new reporting requirements.
• Education/workforce: No progress was made to improve the quality of teacher preparation programs, fix teacher tenure and retention laws, or strengthen charter schools.

The results of the 2014 Legislature, on top of the 2013 session, send an overriding message: Elections matter, beginning with this November. Our challenges at the Capitol underscore why we must elect individuals who understand what it takes to develop and expand Minnesota’s economy. It’s imperative that we strengthen the voice of business at the Legislature.

The Minnesota Chamber works every day to strengthen the business environment. We’re here to help all Minnesota business succeed.  Watch for our Voting Record in June to see which legislators supported business priorities. Then circle your calendars for November 4 and send a pro-jobs, pro-business majority to the Capitol in 2015.
William Blazar is senior vice president of public affairs and business development, and David Olson is president, at the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce – www.mnchamber.com.

Marco Selected as Cisco SMB Partner of the Year

Marco Selected as Cisco SMB Partner of the Year

April 30, 2014
Cisco recently named Marco, Inc. as their 2013 Central Area Small to Medium Business Partner of the Year. The award was presented to Marco for taking a leadership position in implementing unified communications and cloud networking systems amongst other Cisco technologies. Cisco recognized Marco for creating custom processes designed to help scale resources, extend sales reach and contribute to their growth.   “Using these processes and Cisco solutions have allowed us to scale into new markets and provide an extraordinary level of service to our mutual customers,” said Steve Knutson, Chief Technology Officer at Marco.”   Marco is a Cisco Premier Partner meeting standards set forth by Cisco for networking competency, service, support, and customer satisfaction.  Marco’s certifications from Cisco include Advanced Unified Computing Specialization, Advanced Collaboration Architecture Specialization, Advanced Unified Communications, Advanced Wireless LAN, Advanced Routing and Switching, Advanced Security, and Express Foundation Specialization.
About Marco Marco helps organizations manage their information by applying network expertise to voice, data, video, and print solutions. Marco was founded in 1973 and is 100 percent employee owned company. Marco serves customers throughout the Upper Midwest and nationally with offices in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa. Learn more at marconet.com
Contact:
            Angela Anderson , Director of Communications
            320.259.3058

 

Resurfacing of Highway 24 to Highway 15 begins May 12

Resurfacing of Highway 24 to Highway 15 begins May 12

April 29, 2014
WILLMAR, Minn. –Motorists traveling on Highway 24 will encounter a detour beginning Monday, May 12, while crews resurface the road between Litchfield and Highway 15 beginning, Monday, May 12.  Traffic will be detoured to Highways 22 and 55.  The detour is scheduled to be in place through the duration of the project.
C. S. McCrossan of Maple Grove, MN is the prime contractor for the $5.8M project.  The project is scheduled to be completed by late August, weather permitting.   With this project, MnDOT is working to enhance an efficient and effective transportation system and ensure that the transportation system with continue to serve the state for many years.         MnDOT urges motorists to always drive with caution in a work zone and reminds them never to enter a roadway that has been blocked with barricades or cones.    For real time travel information anywhere in Minnesota, visit www.511mn.org          
Contact:
            Judy Jacobs , Public Affairs Coordinator
            320/214-6426 (office); Judy.jacobs@state.mn.us

Coal Ruling Supports Competitive, Reliable Electricity

Coal Ruling Supports Competitive, Reliable Electricity

April 25, 2014

By WILLIAM BLAZAR

Rattle off what makes Minnesota a great place to do business, and competitive electricity rates used to rank near the top. The bad news: Other states now target Minnesota businesses by promoting their low and predictable rates. The good news: A recent court ruling is a major victory on the road to restoring our competitive position and ensuring reliable service for businesses and homeowners alike.

The ruling in April by U.S. District Judge Susan Richard struck down a portion in the Next Generation Energy Act that prohibited Minnesotans from purchasing power produced by new coal plants, whether located inside or outside Minnesota. The ruling supports the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce’s stance that our state’s economy is best served by a full menu of electric generation technology from nuclear power to coal to renewable sources.

More and more businesses today point to electricity as one of their major operating costs – for some, it represents 25 percent of the overall cost of production. And, there’s been a barrage of rate increases during the last decade. Little relief is in sight, giving companies one more reason to rethink their plans to locate or expand operations in Minnesota.   Statistics underscore the concern. In 1990, Minnesota had the 12th lowest average commercial rates and the 15 lowest average industrial rates.  By 2011, 17 states had lower average commercial rates and 24 states had lower average industrial rates. From 1990-2010, the average commercial rate in Minnesota surpassed those of Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota. Actual and pending rate increases only compound the problem.

We are, all too frequently, our own worst enemy with respect to rate increases. Much of the recent action has been triggered by various state mandates, most adopted since 2000.     Judge Richard’s ruling strikes down one of those mandates. She acted because the 2007 state law violates the commerce clause in the U.S. Constitution. The moratorium in the 2007 law restricted the ability of out-of-state power producers (the state of North Dakota filed the lawsuit) to find buyers for power from existing coal-fired generating plants or to plan for new facilities. The legal battle over the moratorium will continue as Governor Dayton promises he will appeal the decision.

Legal challenges notwithstanding, the ruling is an opportunity to spotlight the state’s energy policy. There’s work to do. Our challenge is to replace the current strategy – i.e. mandates paired with “command and control” regulation – with policies aimed at competitive electric rates and improving environmental conditions. Our support for electric rates based on the actual cost of serving each customer is one example.  It will not only make rates more competitive, but also maximize conservation.

The same goes for Minnesota’s nation-leading commitment to renewable energy.  It can be an opportunity, but there is no guarantee.  If economic development promised from our investment in renewable energy is jeopardized by rising and increasingly n0ncompetitive energy costs, we all are net losers – customers and the state’s economy. Specific industries, and the jobs they support, could be at risk. Even “green” companies consider energy prices when deciding whether to build new or expand existing facilities.  Our goals for renewable energy are directionally correct, but they need to be adjusted so in the short run, they stop eroding the competitiveness of our electric rates, and, in the long run, make our rates more competitive than ever. The judge’s decision gives additional urgency to this task.  The Legislature has set its long-term objectives for energy policy. Stakeholders should now work together to find ways to meet the goals without compromising the development or growth of our state’s economy.

William Blazar is senior vice president of public affairs and business development at the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce – www.mnchamber.com.

Contact:
            Jim Pumarlo , Director of Communications
            651.292.4664; jpumarlo@mnchamber.com

Winning Snowflake Ticket Numbers

Please click on the links below for the lists of winning Snowflake ticket numbers.

$1000 Grand Prize

$500 Prize A

$500 Prize B - Prize Claimed!

$500 Prize C - Prize Claimed!

$200 Runnings Gift Card (top two tickets are winners)

 

Participants have until 12:00 pm (noon) on Monday, January 6th to turn in winning ticket numbers at the Chamber office.

 

As of Monday, January 6th, all prizes have been claimed or winners have been notified.

Now Taking Chamber of Commerce Scholarship Applications

The Litchfield Chamber of Commerce is proud to offer our unique scholarship program once again this year.   The program supports $500.00 scholarships for Litchfield High School graduates who have completed at least 2 years of post-secondary education.  We are proud to support students doing their best to achieve admirable goals.  The scholarship is funded by donations from members of the Litchfield Chamber of Commerce.  Click here to access the scholarship application.  Completed applications are due back by 4:00 pm on Wednesday, December 11, 2013.

Career Path Scholarship

The Litchfield Area Chamber of Commerce is pleased to offer scholarships to students of all ages who seek to further their education at accredited postsecondary schools and technical colleges. Career Path Scholarships are designed for adult learners to provide financial assistance as they pursue additional job skills training or degree curriculum, with an emphasis on vocational or technical education.  Applicants must complete the scholarship application and include a recommendation letter from a Litchfield Chamber of Commerce member.  A directory of members may be found at www.litch.com OR you may call the Chamber office at (320) 693-8184.  Application deadline for fall 2013 scholarship is August 1, 2013.

MARCO PURCHASES TWO MORE COMPANIES

Expansion in Iowa and North Dakota Continues

 

St. Cloud, MN – Marco announced today they have purchased Midwest Office Automations, Inc., a copier and printer company with offices in Sioux City and Storm Lake, Iowa. Their 21 employees have joined the Marco team. Earlier in December, Marco purchased Mason City Business Systems and their six locations in Iowa.

 

Marco also announced the purchase of Midwest Business Systems – a copier and printer company with offices in Bismarck, Dickinson, Jamestown and Minot, North Dakota. The 27 employees from Midwest Business Systems have joined Marco who already has an office in Fargo and Grand Forks that employs 36 people. The purchase allows Marco to expand its technical expertise and service offerings throughout the North Dakota area.

 

This is Marco’s fifth acquisition over the past five months, adding a total of 157 employees to its workforce through acquisitions in 2012. Marco now employs 620 people throughout 35 locations in the Upper Midwest.

 

“Our acquisition strategy involves buying companies that offer similar products and services as Marco but has locations where we don’t currently have a presence,” Marco CEO Jeff Gau said. “We plan to expand our service offerings to clients in these areas to provide them with even more innovative technology and expert service and support.”

 

Marco helps organizations manage their information by applying network expertise to voice, data, video, and print solutions. Marco, founded in 1973, is a 100 percent employee owned company that has been consistently recognized as one of the best places to work. Marco was named among the Top 25 Best Companies to Work for in America by the Great Place to Work Institute, received the Minnesota Work-Life Champions Award and recognized as a top place to work by the Star Tribune and the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.

 

Snowflake Ticket Numbers

Please click on the links below for the lists of winning Snowflake ticket numbers.

 

$1000 prize - Claimed

$500 prize A – Claimed

$500 prize B – Claimed

$500 prize C – Claimed

All cash prizes

Gift certificates

 

Update – As of 12:00 p.m. on January 2, 2013, tickets can no longer be redeemed.  Prize winners have been contacted.  Thank you for participating in the Snowflakes promotion.