By Kristin Robbins

Guest Columnnist

This past week, the Minnesota House headed down to southeast Minnesota to hold a series of committee meetings, tours, and listening sessions as part of the 2019 mini session. Hearings were held across the southeast corner of our state, including Caledonia, Rochester, Rushford, and Winona.

Since no official votes would or could be taken, legislators were free to choose the hearings they wish to attend. I attended Health and Human Services, Jobs, and Energy Committee hearings in Rochester, Winona, and Rushford.

The number one issue we heard about at every stop was the workforce shortage. It seemed as if everyone we spoke with is in need of employees to fill shifts, keep up with demand, and meeting needs in their communities.

Legislators learned a lot and asked a lot of questions. The mini session provided a great opportunity to hear the perspective of small towns and farming communities. The testifiers brought their views on how their communities are impacted by trade, immigration, natural disasters, as well as state taxes, regulations, and mandates.

I was also able to tour two co-working spaces. These two co-working spaces are working to support local entrepreneurs and foster a climate of innovation and new start-ups in Greater Minnesota — “the Garage” in Winona and “Red Wing Ignite” in Red Wing. Both are working with schools to develop internship programs with local businesses to keep young people in their communities and are trying to raise venture funding to support local entrepreneurs. The co-working spaces provide much needed high-speed connectivity and other support to provide an incubator for growing or expanding small businesses.

The main takeaway that my fellow legislators and I took away from the mini session is that Greater Minnesota is thriving and small communities are working together in impressive ways to support agriculture, manufacturing, education, and entrepreneurs. They, like all communities throughout our state, need the freedom to flourish and attract new workers to support growth and redevelopment.

The mini session provided a great opportunity to get the legislature out of Saint Paul and bring the legislature to the people. We live in a great state and I look forward to continuing to make it even better!

Kristin Robbins is State Representative for Dist. 34A serving Rogers, Maple Grove and Dayton.

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