The River Heights Chamber reached out to members to hear their challenges to growing jobs in Minnesota – here are what a couple of them said and more from Minnesota Chamber President, Doug Loon, on the Chamber Federation’s Legislative policies.
Mar 2, 2020
By Chamber President Doug Loon
Strike up a conversation with any business owner on the challenges to growing jobs in Minnesota, and the themes ring familiar.
High taxes hinder growth. Access to quality health care at an affordable price. The increasing number of government-mandates on employee benefits. Shortage of skilled workers.
Businesses of all types and sizes feel these stresses. Job-creators across the state hold their collective breath as the 2020 Legislature gets underway. Listen to those on the front lines as we seek ways to lessen these headwinds and create economic opportunity for all Minnesotans.
St. Cloud and River Heights are among the 40-plus members of the Minnesota Chamber Federation, which unites and amplifies the voice of local chambers by advocating for policies to grow business in every corner of the state. Together with the Minnesota Chamber, the Federation is launching its 2020 agenda as the Legislature gets underway.
Workplace regulations are center stage for St. Cloud businesses, says Teresa Bohnen, president of the St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce. Among their concerns is the broad wage theft law that, among other things, penalizes employers for unintentional payroll errors. “It seemed like the wage theft law sailed through last year without much consideration of the unintended consequences. Now we are requiring all businesses to absorb additional costs related to excessive paperwork and compliance to regulations that the vast majority of them were already following.”
The Federation will pursue modifications in the wage theft law.
We also continue to oppose “one size fits all” state mandates that limit employers’ ability to design competitive benefit packages for their employees. The patchwork of local mandates is cited in Inver Grove Heights. “Many small businesses don’t just work in one community,” says Brenda Dietrich, co-owner of Hardline Concrete & Masonry. “When cities make their own legislation, such as mandating wages and benefits, it is a hindrance to small businesses.”
Kari Rihm, president and chief executive of Rihm Family Companies, underscores the most widespread difficulty facing businesses: Finding workers. “Too few people are going into trades, and too many people are retiring from them.” she says. “It’s no secret. Businesses will be stymied if they can’t hire enough experienced, skilled workers.” The Federation continues to seek systemic reforms to raise all student achievement, ensuring every high school graduate is ready for postsecondary education or a career.
Local employer concerns resonate with Jennifer Gale, president of the River Heights Chamber. “We need to align our state’s legislative policies with our desire to keep Minnesota competitive,” she says. “Local chambers can work side by side with our legislators to connect them with business owners who know firsthand the everyday challenges.”
Conforming Minnesota law with the federal Section 179 tax code tops our tax agenda to allow immediate expensing equipment purchases. Rounding out our priorities are requiring a cost-benefit analysis as part of any proposal to add insurance mandates to state law and supporting environmental policies that drive private investment in Minnesota while helping employers reduce environmental impacts.
Federation partners have collectively advanced employer priorities for more than a decade; they represent 43 communities and 21,000-plus businesses.
If you want to be in the know – and lend your collective voice to help improve the lives of all Minnesotans – I encourage you to become a member of your local chamber or the Minnesota Chamber. Sign up for email updates throughout the legislative session to keep abreast of what is happening at the Capitol.
As one employer, your voice can be a whisper. Combine it with hundreds of others, and your voice becomes a roar.
Jon Dietrich, of Hardline Concrete & Masonry, has been in the industry for over 20 years, and started Hardline over 13 years ago! Not only has Hardline been in business for over 13 years, they have been a part of the River Heights Chamber for 4 years. Hardline started as a sole proprietor in 2005, doing mainly commercial and industrial work. When incorporating in 2009, they shifted business to completing more residential and decorative work.
While they are grateful for fundamental commercial work, they feel their true passion lies with being able to help customers create their artistic vision for their own yard and home. Jon has an artistic side that helps him think outside the box and give customers innovative ideas that work in the Minnesota climate. Jon and Brenda pride themselves in doing the job correctly the first time and being primarily a referral-based business; they contribute many of their referrals to being a part of the River Heights Chamber of Commerce. They form great relationships with their customers. When working so closely with the customer to get them what they want, customers become grateful for the service. Jon talked about how many customers even make food for the crew. When asked what the crew’s favorite food was he said, “Anything the customers make is always great! I have had customers grill us hamburgers and make homemade french fries, those meals are always the best.”
They treat every job as if it was their own when they leave their Hardline logo stamped in the concrete. When Hardline was asked how they came up with their logo, Jon replied, “Following in my father’s footsteps to work in the same line of work was hard. Losing my dad at a young age didn’t secure me the guidance most people get from taking over a family business, causing me to make many mistakes along the way. It was like a hard line in the sand. That’s where the name comes from. Regarding the logo my buddy and I put it together. I used red because it was my dad’s favorite color and the color of his first car.”
Not only does Hardline Concrete & Masonry care about their customers’ needs they also care about their employees’ needs. Employee relations are important at Hardline. Every employee is treated like family. They know how hard the work can be. They put policies in place to keep their employees safe, as well as keep their customers safe and free of potential liability. Some policies they have implemented are a drug screening and zero tolerance drug policy, as well as a healthy work policy. Hardline appreciates the hard work done by employees so they offer job bonuses based on work expectations. They even offer full-time employees hour long massages ever 2 weeks!
Hardline Concrete & Masonry believes in small businesses succeeding and has recommended five other sole proprietors, LLCs and corporations to join the River Heights Chamber of Commerce for continued success. Brenda is very active in the River Heights Chamber of Commerce, currently serving as the 2018 Chair of the Board, and has served 1.5 years as the Ambassador chair, 1 year as Ambassador chair-elect and has been a Board member since 2015. Brenda also has served as a delegate for MN at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Summit 2015, received the River Heights Chamber Marshall award during the 2016 membership drive and was a member of the South Metro Business PAC in 2016. When Hardline was asked about an impactful moment that they would consider their greatest win, Brenda said, “Being nominated for the River Heights Chamber’s Small Business of the Year Award, it was an honor and a huge win because being recognized by a group of your peers is a great feeling.” The River Heights Chamber was proud to honor Hardline with the award and is proud to have Hardline Concrete & Masonry as a dedicated member of the business community!
Watch their Member Spotlight video here.