Survey: Chamber members want more businesses

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 24, 2002

Continued economic development to bring more businesses and jobs to this area was the main objective relayed in a recent survey by members of the Austin Area Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber executive director Sandy Forstner said about 130 surveys, or one-third of the chamber's members, were answered.

"Our members believe that economic development and reinvestment in our communities are the important issues," he said. "There is a need to nurture our economy through existing businesses and new ones. If communities are going to grow, you have to expand existing businesses or bring in new ones."

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Forstner said two other issues brought up by members included Mower County commissioners freezing the levy and public safety. Forstner said the majority of members questioned why the county shouldn't continue to freeze the levy, especially with the amount of reserve funds available.

"These are difficult economic times," he said. "It's also important for people to ask government to evaluate its operations and to see if they can do the same job with the same amount of money, much like other businesses.

"State government has grown over the last 20 years, so are taxpayers getting the most bang for their buck?"

The survey was completed to help the Chamber of Commerce's government affairs committee understand what direction the membership wants the committee to take. The committee has spent the past two years helping to educate voters during election periods and providing a unified voice for local businesses.

"It's proven that public policy that is good for the small business owner is good for the entire community, including government," said Neal Ronquist, the committee's chair. "The chambers' members clearly recognize that policy promoting economic growth, coupled with a check on government spending, results in prosperous economic conditions.

"The result is a healthy business environment affording business the opportunity to compete for the best employees, hire the best employees at high wages and offer the best benefit packages. As a committee, we've seen what the membership desires and we will continue to work our partnerships with local government officials to produce results beneficial to all."

Chamber president Rod Nordeng agreed that a lot of business leaders were thinking about the levy issue. "I think that was pretty clear that it's in the minds of local businesspeople. That stands out."

However, Nordeng said looking at new ways to attract development and new residents to Austin is a continual challenge, but one that is attainable. Nordeng said when jobs come to this area, it's essential to try and keep people residing locally as well.

"The challenge is 'what are communities doing that we're not?'" Nordeng said. "Are we able to tap into the potential of communities, like Kasson or Pine Island, where many of those residents work in Rochester? What can we do to get those people to come to Austin? We're trying to encourage residency in Austin anyway we can."

Dan Fields can be reached at 434-2230 or by e-mail at