Oct 18, 2011 at 2:30 pm
ST. CLOUD, Minn. (KNSI) - Following the passage of the state budget back in July, Governor Mark Dayton settled on job creation and jumpstarting Minnesota's economy as his administration's top priority. Tuesday in St. Cloud, local politicians, educators and business leaders gave Dayton plenty of suggestions for making that happen.
A panel of area professionals joined Dayton for a regional economic development summit, the ninth and final regional meeting of Dayton's summer-long barnstorming tour of the state, speaking with all facets of the business community on ways to bolster job creation across Minnesota.
"(St. Cloud) is an area that is in some real transition," state Representative and St. Cloud State economics professor King Banaian told the crowd of more than 100 at St. Cloud Technical & Community College Tuesday. "Used to be, 20 percent of this area was manufacturing. We're now down below 15. But we're growing in other areas. We're growing in health services. We're growing in education. What we're looking at are issues in this area that focus on that transition and how to do that," Banaian said.
One of the chief challenges for employers in the St. Cloud area was finding qualified workers to fill often highly-specialized mechanical and technical positions, said Talon Innovations president Mark Eriksson.
Representatives from St. Cloud's education community, including St. Cloud State president Earl Potter and St. Cloud Tech president Joyce Helens, said understanding the current needs of St. Cloud's business community and problem-solving with those professionals to better train the workers of the future was one of their toughest challenges.
"There are employers looking for people with specific skills and there are a lot of people who are out of work looking for jobs. There's a disconnect there. That's something that isn't going to require more money. It's just a reorientation of the training with the jobs of the future," Dayton said after the summit.
Dayton said he came away from the St. Cloud session hearing many similar calls from his previous summits -- calls for government to help clear a path through bureaucracy so state businesses could take care of themselves.
"(We need) capital for small businesses, a more streamlined regulatory process, which the legislature and I have initiated in the last session. We need to continue that so can get out of the way so businesses can expand and create more jobs," Dayton said.
Restoring air service to St. Cloud Regional Airport was another often-heard goal laid out during the nearly two-hour session.
After St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis asked for Dayton's political muscle to help secure a new carrier for the now nearly-empty facility in 2012, Dayton offered his full support for the effort.
"Not only would I be glad to make a call to set up the meeting with a regional air carrier, I'll go to the meeting with you. Competition is good for retailers, it's good for politicians, it'll be good for the airline industry. We need to bring some competition (to St. Cloud)," Dayton said.
St. Cloud Airport Advisory Board chairman Roger Bonn said close negotiations were currently underway with United Airlines about potentially servicing St. Cloud.
As for his call Monday for a special legislative session next month for a vote on a new Vikings stadium package, Dayton said he was confident a package for either an Arden Hills stadium or a Minneapolis stadium would be settled by his Nov. 23 deadline.
"I'm confident that we'll get a resolution, one way or another. I believe we can put together a financing package if the Vikings are willing to commit absolutely to pay for the cost overruns in Arden Hills. I believe we can put together a good financial package in Minneapolis. I think we can have a premier stadium in either site that'll involve thousands of construction jobs," Dayton said. "The real solution to the deficit problems of the state is to have more people work...this is one of the economic development projects that going to put people to work and add to state revenues."
"Ultimately, if the majority view of the legislators is not to go ahead, then we'll have to live with that and I'm prepared to do that too," Dayton said. "We need to get this resolved...Now is the time to act or that we're not going to act and accept the consequences."