Westrom tours technology campus
WILLMAR -- One of the take-home messages for Minnesota Sen. Torrey Westrom during a campaign visit Monday to Kandiyohi County came halfway through a tour of the MinnWest Technology Campus.
WILLMAR - One of the take-home messages for Minnesota Sen. Torrey Westrom during a campaign visit Monday to Kandiyohi County came halfway through a tour of the MinnWest Technology Campus.
Jim Sandstrom, general manager of Epitopix, described some of the frustrations his company faces in getting new animal vaccines onto the market.
Federal regulations are often burdensome, Sandstrom said. “It really slows us down.”
What Epitopix is experiencing reinforces the need for government to help businesses rather than hinder them, Westrom said afterward.
Calling it “real-life Minnesota,” he said efforts to streamline the policies and regulations surrounding U.S. businesses “would be a positive out of today.”
The Republican from Elbow Lake is on the campaign trail. A veteran of the Minnesota Legislature since first being elected to the House in 1996, Westrom is challenging Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., for the Seventh District seat in the U.S. House.
Westrom’s visit to the Willmar area on Monday took him to a local turkey farm and then to the technology campus, which opened in 2006 as a hub for bioscience and technology-related business and innovation.
The campus is currently 60 percent full, with 30 companies employing a total of 424 people, said Steve Salzer, general manager, and Joanna Schrupp, director of business development.
Westrom had many questions as he toured the business incubator building and visited Nova-Tech Engineering and Epitopix.
He wanted to hear about the history of the campus and asked if there were challenges in finding qualified workers.
At DREAM Technical Academy, the math- and science-focused charter school that opened on campus last week, he visited with one of the teachers about the school’s open-ended approach to learning.
“I think what you’ve done here is pretty marvelous,” Westrom told Schrupp and Salzer, calling it proof of the rural economy’s ability to grow.
He said there’s a need to free businesses from the weight of regulations and give them more opportunities to innovate and grow. “It’s important that this type of development can continue,” he said.
As his campaign crisscrosses western Minnesota, the top issue on people’s minds has been job creation, especially the kinds of jobs that offer attractive opportunities to live and work in rural Minnesota, Westrom said. “You need those jobs to be the anchors to keep people in our communities.”
The bioscience and agricultural focus of the MinnWest Technology Campus is an example of how the region’s farm economy can contribute to business growth, he said, adding that he will “continue to be a strong voice for agriculture.”
He also has heard from voters who are worried about what they see as an unsustainable burden of government.
The cost of implementing the Accountable Care Act has been a drag on the economy and has led to considerable uncertainty among employers about what the financial impact will be on them, Westrom said.
With two months to go before the November election, Westrom said he will continue to travel around the region and listen to what voters are saying.
“There’s a lot of work to do and it’s a big challenge but we’re optimistic… It’s time for a change,” he said.