Businesses must be attuned to national policy, says Chamber rep

WILLMAR -- When tax cuts are enacted in Washington, D.C., it can make it easier for a manufacturer in Kandiyohi County to buy an expensive piece of equipment.

WILLMAR -- When tax cuts are enacted in Washington, D.C., it can make it easier for a manufacturer in Kandiyohi County to buy an expensive piece of equipment.

When national policymakers can't agree on a way to make health care more affordable, it hits home with local businesses that are unable to provide coverage for their employees.

It's why business owners need to make their voices heard at the state and national level, Doug Loon told members of the Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce public policy committee on Thursday.

Loon is vice president for regional affairs and advocacy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, managing six states in the upper Midwest -- including Minnesota -- and seven regional offices that oversee legislative and political grassroots strategy in all 50 states.

With Congress in recess during August, "now is a great opportunity" for business owners to start talking to their lawmakers, he said.


"That's where we need your help -- not just in elections but on key issues," Loon said. "Unless lobbyists are backed up by the business community at home, it's an empty, hollow message."

During a presentation that lasted almost an hour, Loon outlined several national issues that also affect businesses at the local level.

Any Minnesota business that exports its products or services has a stake in free trade agreements, he said, pointing out that 6.3 percent of the state's economy consists of foreign trade and 83,000 Minnesotans are employed directly by a foreign-owned company.

"We are involved in a global economy. We need to act that way," he said. "If we don't negotiate deals, our competitors around the globe will. We want to make sure we're at the table."

Federal measures to promote energy independence can mean the difference between prosperity or the burden of rising energy costs, Loon said.

"It continues to be a significant issue," he said. "Everyone agrees we need to have more energy independence. The question is how do you do that. If we don't have a reliable source, businesses can't grow."

For many businesses -- especially small businesses struggling to keep up with the cost of health care premiums -- health care is likely to be a critical issue in the 2008 election, Loon said.

In the wake of the collapse Wednesday of the I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis, highway funding could emerge to the forefront as well, he said.


Although the 2008 election is still more than a year away, it's already shaping up as a potential battleground, said Loon.

Democrats have a majority in the House of Representatives but are almost evenly balanced by Republicans in the Senate, and both parties will be looking to widen their margin, he said.

There also is no clear front-runner yet among the presidential candidates, he said. "It's been 80 years since we've had this much uncertainty over candidates, where there's no heir apparent."

Although the national political scene might seem distant to many business owners, it ultimately can have a local impact, Loon said.

"Issues don't necessarily know boundaries," he said. "I would suggest to you to look beyond that."

What To Read Next
Get Local


Local Sports and News