NEW ULM - Ever wonder how the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce comes up with the issues it says is important to businesses?
One of the ways it asks is a program call Grow Minnesota!, a Minnesota Chamber of Commerce program that enlists local chamber partners to survey their local businesses. The New Ulm Area Chamber of Commerce is one such partner organization, and it met Friday to discuss the most recent round of surveys.
About 20 local businesses were contacted by Chamber volunteers and asked about their businesses, their needs and concerns, and what could be done to make their businesses better. The goal of the program is business retention, business assistance and business expansion. The survey results are combined with those from the 57 participating partners around the state, and those results are used to help the Minnesota Chamber help businesses.
The program helps identify local business concerns and problems and can help develop local strategies to address those problems.
At a breakfast meeting at the New Ulm Country Club Friday, a handful of volunteers talked about their experiences with this year's survey, including some of the issues they found concerned a lot of businesses.
Julie Baumgartner said she was surprised at how the Highway 14 issue affected local businesses. She said she heard from business people she talked to that Highway 14 is one of the factors they consider as they make decisions on growth and expansion, and even relocating. She learned some businesses assign costs to having 2-lane highway access vs. 4-lane.
Toby Freier, administrator of New Ulm Medical Center, said housing continues to be an issue for the center and for other businesses. The lack of rental housing makes it harder for newly recruited doctors and other employees to make the transition to New Ulm, and some wind up settling in Mankato. New Ulm loses out on having them become part of the community.
Another concern was education and the state's need to provide stable funding for K-12 education so districts don't have to rely on referendums to fund basic programs. Other businesses are having trouble finding qualified employees to fill their vacancies, leading to the need for more post-secondary vocational options in New Ulm.
Audra Shaneman, CEO of the New Ulm Area Chamber, said this provides valuable information for the Chamber as it makes program plans and strategies in the coming year. Volunteers felt it was important for the surveyed businesses to know their information would be used, and not just filed.