MARSHALL - Representatives from Marshall's local government and business community met on Thursday morning to discuss legislative issues and how to make Minnesota more business-friendly.
The regional policy meeting was one of 25 listening sessions held around the state by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and was moderated by Jennifer Byers, vice president of Grassroots and Local Chamber Relations.
"There's this perception we're this Twin Cities, big-business thing," Byers said, "but of 2,300 members in the state, 80 percent have fewer than 100 employees, and 70 percent have fewer than 50."
Byers presented those attending with a list of legislative actions supported or opposed by the state Chamber in 2012, stating whether they passed, failed to pass or passed and were vetoed by the governor.
"We go around after the legislative session mostly to get input," Byers said.
Topics discussed included the environmental permitting process, energy, building codes, tax reform, education, Internet sales taxation, regulation and the possible effects of Obamacare on business.
"One of the things I was curious about was what are the hot topics for the Chamber this year," said John DeCramer, owner of BH Electronics in Marshall.
DeCramer cited energy issues, building codes and environmental regulations as important issues for area business and local government.
"If some of the proposed regulations for river discharge go through, there'll be crippling costs for the city," DeCramer said. "And building codes are a serious issue in Marshall. We'd like to keep some of the old buildings."
Norm Gregerson of Greig and Gregerson Management LLC also said new building codes mandating the number of electrical outlets per room, or requiring sprinkler systems be added to existing buildings, while benefiting construction unions, impose costs on building owners that may make it cheaper to tear down older buildings and build new ones.
According to Cal Brink, executive director of the Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce, a study done at the Southwest Marketing and Advisory Center at Southwest Minnesota State University ranked five states in the region to determine which are most business-friendly.
"Out of five categories of how easy it is to start and get into business, Minnesota had 'room for improvement' in all five," Brink said.
According to Byers, Minnesota's regulations create a lot of uncertainty for the state's businesses, compared to the relatively easier regulatory processes in neighboring South Dakota.
"Why can't we figure out a way to back off from this 'watch every minute' thing?" Byers asked. "From the business community's perspective, they're afraid to even ask for guidance because it might trigger an audit."