City to join outstate lobbying group

Published 10:51 am Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The city of Austin could get more representation at the state Capitol in the near future.

The Austin City Council voted Monday to become part of the Greater Minnesota Partnership, a lobbying effort organized by former state Rep. Dan Dorman, R-Albert Lea, pending support from the Development Corporation of Austin.

The membership, which would cost $1,500, comes after city officials listened to a talk Dorman recently gave in Albert Lea.

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City officials say the group, which would represent rural Minnesota alongside other lobbying efforts such as the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, is needed to help outstate areas get state funding.

“Rural Minnesota is just getting beat up in the Legislature,” Mayor Tom Stiehm, who supported the decision, said.

City Administrator Craig Clark brought the issue before council at its work session. Clark, who sits on the partnership’s executive board, said he believes the added lobbying benefits for a city the size of Austin outweighs the potential cost. He also noted he served on the group’s board as a city administrator in Worthington.

“It’s really become more of a rural-metro fight in St. Paul,” Clark said.

Greater Minnesota Partnership represents dozens of cities and businesses from around the state, including the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce, Waseca, Winona Port Authority, Plainview, Owatonna, and Mankato.

The city won’t become members without the DCA, however. City officials say the DCA has opposed membership in the past but may support the group soon.