Wall Street gives Minnesota great grades for fiscal health

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports…

For Gov. Mark Dayton and his finance team, last week’s news that Minnesota’s Standard & Poor’s bond rating had been upgraded to AAA — the top rung for states — was a bit like a student learning that he had aced a final exam.

The new rating matched the top marks Minnesota regained from the Fitch agency in 2016 and scored again last week for the third straight year. A third agency, Moody’s, held the state’s rating at Aa1, where it has been since the state budget deficit repair job of 2003. Moody’s explained its reluctance to give Minnesota top marks by noting that the state’s “sound management tools” are “somewhat mitigated by recurring governance issues” — things, we imagine, like a gubernatorial veto of a massive 1,000-page spending bill.

Still, praise from two of Wall Street’s big three rating agencies validates one of the two-term DFL governor’s favorite bragging points: On his watch, Minnesota has regained sound fiscal health.

Republicans holding listening sessions on childcare in Minnesota

The Minnesota Senate Republican Caucus reports…

Senate Republicans will continue to address the statewide problem of inadequate, expensive child care with a series of listening sessions held across Minnesota starting in August. The sessions will be sponsored by the Senate’s new Child Care Access Working Group chaired by Sen. Bill Weber (R-Luverne), and will feature both Republicans and Democrats.

The first session is not too far from LqP…

The first two listening sessions will be held in Willmar and Lake City. Full schedule to follow at a later date.

Willmar Listening Session
August 13, 6:00-8:00 PM
Fire Station Training Room, 515 2nd Street SW

Lake City Listening Session
September 10, 6-8:00 PM
Lake City Public Library, 201 South High Street

Women in Agriculture meeting July 17 in Madison MN

Here is your chance to learn and share with other women involved with agriculture:

Tuesday, July 17 , 2018
5:00-7:00 pm
Lac qui Parle County Annex
Multi-Media Room
422 5th Avenue
Madison, MN

Bring a dish to share! We will provide  bottled water, plates and napkins. Bring a friend. All attendees will be entered in a drawing to win a door prize!

Contact the County for more info – 320-598-7976

Energy Savings at Home – a checklist to save energy and money

Energy Star has some great tips for saving energy and money in these hots summer weeks…

Maintenance Checklist

Maintain your equipment to prevent future problems and unwanted costs. Keep your cooling and heating system at peak performance by having a contractor do annual pre-season check-ups. Contractors get busy once summer and winter come, so it’s best to check the cooling system in the spring and the heating system in the fall. To remember, you might plan the check-ups around the time changes in the spring and fall.

A typical maintenance check-up should include the following.

  • Check thermostat settings to ensure the cooling and heating system keeps you comfortable when you are home and saves energy while you are away.
  • Tighten all electrical connections and measure voltage and current on motors. Faulty electrical connections can cause unsafe operation of your system and reduce the life of major components.
  • Lubricate all moving parts. Parts that lack lubrication cause friction in motors and increases the amount of electricity you use.
  • Check and inspect the condensate drain in your central air conditioner, furnace and/or heat pump (when in cooling mode). A plugged drain can cause water damage in the house and affect indoor humidity levels.
  • Check controls of the system to ensure proper and safe operation. Check the starting cycle of the equipment to assure the system starts, operates, and shuts off properly.

Cooling Specific

  • Clean evaporator and condenser air conditioning coils. Dirty coils reduce the system’s ability to cool your home and cause the system to run longer, increasing energy costs and reducing the life of the equipment.
  • Check your central air conditioner’s refrigerant level and adjust if necessary. Too much or too little refrigerant will make your system less efficient increasing energy costs and reducing the life of the equipment.
  • Clean and adjust blower components to provide proper system airflow for greater comfort levels. Airflow problems can reduce your system’s efficiency by up to 15 percent.

Heating Specific

  • Check all gas (or oil) connections, gas pressure, burner combustion and heat exchanger. Improperly operating gas (or oil) connections are a fire hazard and can contribute to health problems. A dirty burner or cracked heat exchanger causes improper burner operation. Either can cause the equipment to operate less safely and efficiently.

Actions To Do Yourself

  • Inspect, clean, or change air filters once a month in your central air conditioner, furnace, and/or heat pump. Your contractor can show you how to do this. A dirty filter can increase energy costs and damage your equipment, leading to early failure.

The job market is good for job seekers

New graduate? Getting back into the workforce? Looking for a job upgrade? The Minneapolis Star Tribune has some good news…

There has seldom been a better time to go job hunting, particularly for new graduates and entry-level workers.

After many recessionary years of clawbacks and wage reductions when the employed were grateful even to have jobs, job seekers now find employers fighting to hire them. Wages are inching up — not enough, and not in all sectors, but it’s happening. Earlier this year a survey by the National Federation of Independent Businesses showed that more than 30 percent of small businesses reported paying higher wages. Average U.S. hourly pay has risen nearly 3 percent, the biggest jump in nearly a decade.

To their delight, students looking for summer jobs have found plenty, many paying well above minimum wage and some even accompanied by modest benefit packages.

Particularly for workers just starting out, this may be the best labor market since the 1990s, said Steve Hine, director of labor market information for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. “We’re at 3.1 percent unemployment. For workers, we’re moving into a sellers’ market in a way we haven’t seen before.”

Thriving by Design Conference this week!

We will be at the Thriving by Design conference this week. We’re very excited and so apparently is the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Here’s what they had to say about it…

Nearly every community in Minnesota is looking for ways to benefit from the momentous and accelerating statewide shift to local and renewable energy. Wind and sun are particularly abundant in our southwest corner, and the Southwest RDC is out front guiding the transition. It has helped develop a unique Property Assessed Clean Energy program that allows businesses and farmers to find upfront capital by borrowing against future tax assessments. SRDC also has been a leader of an innovative, new 18-county Rural Minnesota Energy Board, and it works closely with the highly effective statewide Clean Energy Resource Teams, which are helping build a growing list of certified rural “Green Step” cities.

Affordable housing in the Headwaters

Consensus is overwhelming that an affordable-housing shortage is hindering rural economic development, and the Headwaters RDC in the north-central region is among the most creative and ambitious players filling that need. Among initiatives: partnerships with both the Bemidji and Blackduck high schools in which students learn construction trades and actually build a house every year; building affordable multiple-family housing; providing financing to restore substandard single-family units; offering down-payment assistance; and delivering a Home Stretch program that helps low-income folks on the path to homeownership.

Highways, mobility and safe routes in the Arrowhead

Rural Minnesota desperately needs a major transportation funding package to improve highways and bridges, but many regions are as focused as urban communities on transit service and mobility, also promoting the health benefits of walking and bicycling. The Arrowhead RDC in northeastern Minnesota is a leader in developing the Safe Routes to School program and promoting projects that emphasize an active-living approach, with positive impact on both health and natural-resource preservation. The RDC is also helping develop scenic byways to take advantage of the region’s traditional allure to tourists and vacationers, including a lesser-known Avenue of the Pines route from Deer River to Northome.

Equity and welcoming in South Central

Growing racial diversity in this region is offsetting white population loss and aging trends, filling labor demands and lowering the average age in some counties. Thanks to a large Latino workforce, for instance, St. James and Watonwan County now rank among the most diverse places in Minnesota. In alignment with the DevelopMN strategy to “embrace emerging populations” as assets, Region Nine in south-central Minnesota is building a framework for more inclusive and welcoming communities. In 2018, in partnership with the Greater Mankato Diversity Council and the University of Minnesota’s Center for Community Vitality, Region Nine launched a seven-month project convening 45 entities from five communities to explore best practices and, through education and relationship-building, to facilitate community action.

Further exploration of DevelopMN strategies will be a focus of a June 27-29 gathering in Granite Falls called “Thriving by Design: Rural and Urban Together,” to which the public has been invited; space is still available. The event is being organized by Growth & Justice and OneMN.org, a statewide business-minded coalition of leaders working toward racial equity and keeping Minnesota “open, inclusive, welcoming, innovative and creative.”

We know that candidates, news media and social media in coming months are likely to feature divisive issues, regional enmity and simplistic solutions. But we also know there is an emerging private-public-nonprofit sector consensus around attractiveness and place-making as an essential theme for a comprehensive “One Minnesota” development strategy.