Hometown Source » Press Releases http://hometownsource.com from ECM Publishers, Inc. Fri, 31 Oct 2014 01:25:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Plan for a sober, not scary Halloween ride http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/30/plan-for-a-sober-not-scary-halloween-ride/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/30/plan-for-a-sober-not-scary-halloween-ride/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 01:13:38 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=78965 NEWS RELEASE — St. Paul, MN – Law enforcement officers in the 25 counties with the highest numbers of traffic deaths and serious injuries tied to alcohol will try to keep scary fun from turning deadly this Halloween.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety is coordinating increased DWI enforcement in these locations on Oct. 31.

The 25 counties accounted for 62 percent of impaired-related traffic deaths and 69 percent of alcohol-related serious injuries in Minnesota the last three years. They have received federal funding for heightened DWI enforcement from October 2014 — September 2015.

Top 25 Impaired-Related Counties
(1) Hennepin
(6) Stearns
(11) Washington
(16) Cass
(21) Mille Lacs
(2) Anoka
(7) Otter Tail
(12) Wright
(17) Blue Earth
(22) Clay
(3) Ramsey
(8) Olmsted
(13) Crow Wing
(18) Meeker
(23) Morrison
(4) St. Louis
(9) Itasca
(14) Beltrami
(19) Sherburne
(24) Carlton
(5) Dakota
(10) Scott
(15) Benton
(20) Becker
(25) Pine

Halloween, Alcohol, Driving — A Frightening Mix
Statewide in 2013, 30 percent of all fatalities were alcohol-related and Halloween is especially dangerous. From 2009 – 2013 over the Halloween period:
•    14 fatalities and 29 serious injuries were alcohol-related.
•    half of all traffic fatalities were alcohol-related.
•    38 percent of serious injuries were alcohol-related.
•    60 percent of alcohol-related fatalities were males.
•    among 20 – 29 year olds, 67 percent of all traffic fatalities were alcohol-related.

“It’s all about choices and one poor choice can result in jail time, a lost driver’s license and other consequences,” said Minnesota State Patrol Sgt. Jesse Grabow. “We ask motorists to plan for a sober ride, because while losing a license can really disrupt a person’s life, causing a fatality or injuring another driver or passenger is far worse.”

DWI consequences
A DWI offense can result in loss of a license for up to a year, thousands of dollars in costs and possible jail time. Repeat DWI offenders, as well as first-time offenders arrested at 0.16 and above alcohol-concentration level, must use ignition interlock in order to regain legal driving privileges or face at least one year without a driver’s license. Offenders with three or more offenses are required to use interlock for three to six years, or they will never regain driving privileges.

Pedestrian safety
Trick-or-treaters and parents should review basic rules — be aware of moving traffic, cross streets only at intersections or marked crosswalks, carry flashlights and wear reflective clothing. Trick-or-treaters should continue to look both ways as they cross, as distracted drivers may not be looking for them. Motorists should reduce speeds and be prepared to see and stop for pedestrians.

Definitions
•    Alcohol-related: any evidence of alcohol detected in a driver, pedestrian or bicyclist.
•    Impaired-related: any driver, pedestrian or bicyclist with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or above.
•    Drunk-driving-related: any driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or above.

About the Minnesota Department Public Safety
DPS comprises 11 divisions where 2,100 employees operate programs in the areas of law enforcement, crime victim assistance, traffic safety, alcohol and gambling, emergency communications, fire safety, pipeline safety, driver licensing, vehicle registration and emergency management. DPS activity is anchored by three core principles: education, enforcement and prevention.

About the Office of Traffic Safety
OTS designs, implements and coordinates federally funded traffic safety enforcement and education programs to improve driver behaviors and reduce the deaths and serious injuries that occur on Minnesota roads. OTS also administers state funds for the motorcycle safety program and for the child seats for needy families program. 

OTS is an anchoring partner of the state’s Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) traffic safety initiative.

Recent OTS Activity and Statistics
•    Officers arrested 1,340 motorists during a DWI enforcement campaign Aug. 16 through Labor Day.
•    Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts 2013 is a summary of last year’s traffic crashes, derived from law enforcement reports and describes how, why and where crashes occurred and who was involved.

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Gov. Dayton encourages Minnesotans to register for first-ever Pheasant Summit http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/30/gov-dayton-encourages-minnesotans-to-register-for-first-ever-pheasant-summit/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/30/gov-dayton-encourages-minnesotans-to-register-for-first-ever-pheasant-summit/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 01:01:15 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=78958 NEWS RELEASE — St. Paul, MN –  Gov. Mark Dayton invited Minnesotans to register for the state’s first-ever Minnesota Pheasant Summit, which will be held at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall on Dec. 13, 2014.

The Minnesota Pheasant Summit will bring together hunters, farmers, conservationists, policymakers, key members of the Governor’s Cabinet, and others.

During the Summit, participants will discuss strategies to increase the state’s pheasant population, improve pheasant habitat, and ensure that future generations of Minnesotans have opportunities to enjoy one of the state’s most popular and iconic game birds. Gov. Dayton first announced plans for the Summit at a Pheasants Forever event last month.

“For almost 60 years, I have enjoyed pheasant hunting in Minnesota,” said Gov. Dayton. “But the decisions we make today will determine whether future generations of Minnesotans will have those same opportunities. I look forward to convening this Minnesota Pheasant Summit, and developing strategies to improve the pheasant population in our state.”

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the state’s pheasant population index is up 6 percent over 2013. Despite this slight increase, the state’s pheasant population is still 58 percent below the 10-year average, and 71 percent below the long-term average. The Minnesota Pheasant Summit will focus on why the pheasant population has declined in Minnesota, and what collaborative efforts can be undertaken to improve pheasant habitat statewide.

Register now for the Minnesota Pheasant Summit
The Minnesota Pheasant Summit will be held at the Southwest Minnesota State University (1501 State Street, Marshall, Minnesota, 56258) on Saturday, December 13, 2014 from 9:30am – 4:30pm. The Summit is free and open to all Minnesotans interested in preserving the state’s pheasant population for future generations to enjoy. Registration is available on the DNR website. On the website, you can also find additional logistical details and learn more about pheasants and pheasant habitat in Minnesota.

Tell Gov. Dayton what the Pheasant Summit should cover
Ahead of the Dec.13 Summit, the Governor is asking Minnesotans to propose discussion topics for the event, and suggest ideas for what the state can do to improve our pheasant population and habitat. Gov. Dayton encourages Minnesotans to submit their ideas through this online form.

Can’t make the Summit? Fill out the DNR survey
For those Minnesotans who cannot make the Summit on December 13, the DNR is developing a survey to collect additional public input.

Minnesotans who wish to provide that input can register to receive the survey via email on the DNR website. The survey will be available online in mid-November.

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2014 BBB Torch Award for Ethics winners announced http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/29/2014-bbb-torch-award-for-ethics-winners-announced/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/29/2014-bbb-torch-award-for-ethics-winners-announced/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 00:09:26 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=78938 Burnsville, MN –– This year’s winners of the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) Torch Awards for Ethics were named at a ceremony held today (Wednesday, Oct. 29) at the McNamara Alumni Center on the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis campus.

BBB Torch Awards for Ethics recognize worthy companies that display an outstanding level of ethics and integrity in all of their business dealings.

The 2014 BBB Torch Award winners are:
Category I (1-10 employees):
JD Haas and Associates PLLC, Bloomington, MN

·         Category II (11-50 employees):
ICC Restoration and Cleaning Services, Woodbury, MN

·         Category III (51+ employees):
KleinBank, Chaska, MN

“This is always an inspiring event,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “It serves to remind us how fortunate we are to be a part of a marketplace that is so vibrant, robust and anchored firmly on a solid bedrock of ethics.”

More than 250 business owners and community leaders attended today’s ceremony. Television and radio host Lee Valsvik once again served as emcee at the event, and Tony Heredia, Vice President, Strategy and Operations, within Community Relations at Target, was the keynote speaker.

“For the 15th year, the Torch Awards for Ethics have been presented to businesses in our community that demonstrate the highest standards of conducting business,” said David Aafedt, Chairman of the Board for BBB and shareholder at Winthrop & Weinstine.

“We hope these admirable organizations serve as a beacon of leadership to help foster the continued growth of ethical practices throughout Minnesota and North Dakota.”

BBB also presented three area students with Student of Integrity Scholarships. These awards are presented to Minnesota and North Dakota high school seniors who demonstrate through essay their understanding of the importance of ethics. This year’s scholarship winners are:

·         Margaret Maurer, Forest Lake, MN – $2,500
·         Matthew Lagus, Stillwater, MN – $2,500
·         Samantha Goerger, Wyndmere, ND – $1,000

BBB presents the Torch Awards for Ethics each year to companies who exemplify ethical behavior and display integrity in all aspects of their operations. The Torch Awards are open to all for-profit businesses located within the Minnesota and North Dakota region. Nominees are offered the opportunity to submit an entry to the BBB, where a panel of independent volunteer business and community leaders review the entries and choose the winners.

Sponsors for the event are: CHS, Inc., Clear Channel Outdoor, Clear Channel Radio (Cities 97, KDWB, KFAN, News Talk 1130, K102, KOOL 108); Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal; NFP/Financial Concepts, Inc; Master Communications Group; and Rippe Print

Scholarship sponsors: CenterPoint Energy, Northland Group and Valley Pools and Spas

The mission of Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public.

The BBB is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.

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Hunters reminded that bonus permit use limited this season http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/29/hunters-reminded-that-bonus-permit-use-limited-this-season/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/29/hunters-reminded-that-bonus-permit-use-limited-this-season/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 14:45:53 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=78897

Hunters in most of the state are not allowed to use bonus permits to take antlerless deer during the 2014 season, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.  

“Bonus permits are only allowed in seven of 129 deer permit areas this year,” said Maj. Greg Salo, DNR Enforcement Division operations manager. “You cannot use a bonus permit to tag a deer if it was harvested outside of these seven areas.” Salo added that bonus permits are also allowed in some special hunts and encouraged hunters to review the regulations as described in the 2014 regulations synopsis.

Permit areas that allow use of bonus permits in 2014 are:

  • Intensive deer areas 182, 346 and 349.
  • Managed deer areas 114, 287 and 343.
  • The metro deer area 601.

By design, more deer will be off limits this year as a one-deer bag limit rules most of the state and opportunities to take more than one deer are few and far between. The DNR implemented these regulations to help increase Minnesota’s deer population.

Bonus antlerless permits are different than antlerless permits that can be used in lottery deer areas. In lottery areas, bonus permits are not allowed; however, hunters had until Sept. 4 to apply for a limited number of antlerless permits for these lottery areas, where the bag limit is one.

Hunters continue to have the option of harvesting one deer in a bucks-only, lottery or hunter choice area, and also using a bonus permit in an intensive or managed area, the metro area 601, or some special hunts. The bag limit in managed deer areas is two; the bag limit in intensive areas is five; and hunters in the metro permit area 601 can take an unlimited number of antlerless deer. But regardless of area or license type, an individual hunter can only take one buck per year.

For more information on deer hunting and to see a permit area map, see the website.

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Conservative 2014 deer season will rebuild herd, challenge hunters http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/29/conservative-2014-deer-season-will-rebuild-herd-challenge-hunters/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/29/conservative-2014-deer-season-will-rebuild-herd-challenge-hunters/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 14:43:59 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=78894 DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr and his son Hunter in 2013

DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr and his son Hunter in 2013

by Tom Landwehr, commissioner, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Like more than 400,000 others, I am anxiously awaiting Saturday, Nov. 8, when Minnesota’s firearms deer hunting season begins.

There’s nothing like it. The days of advance scouting. The physical struggle of putting up the new stands. The straining for vision and sound in the pre-dawn light of opening day. Anticipation is in full swing for weeks, and then it is upon us.

As I prepare for this year’s hunt, I am fully aware that I, like many other hunters, am less likely to bag a deer than in recent years. In fact, the lowest deer harvest in decades is expected under a harvest plan designed to rebuild the herd. We are conserving deer – does in particular — this season to improve deer numbers in the future.

Overall, most hunters in the state will be able to harvest only one deer. In much of northeastern Minnesota, where two consecutive severe winters took a toll on deer, hunters will only be able to shoot bucks. For me, someone who loves to eat venison, it will be tough to let a big doe go by.  But, the deer herd can rebound quickly, and passing on the doe this year will contribute to a much larger herd next year.

For much of the recent past, the deer herd has been at historic high levels, and harvests have reflected that. In the past five years, and under a plan devised with hunter and landowner input, the DNR deliberately reduced the size of the herd. Today’s populations are close to the goal numbers we set some six years ago. The severe winters of the last two years have driven herd levels lower than where we’d wanted them.

Over the past two years, we at the DNR have heard from hunters that deer numbers are now too low and that efforts to reduce deer numbers have gone too far. In listening sessions and in other ways, many have said it is time to rebuild the population. We agree.

So, this will be a conservative deer season with more protections for antlerless deer throughout much of the state. The harvest could be as low as 120,000. That’s not many deer compared to recent harvests that have approached 200,000 animals.  But, because they respond quickly, we will likely see some liberalization even next year.

Meanwhile, do know the DNR needs your help in re-evaluating deer population goals across the state. This goal-setting process began in 2012 in southern Minnesota and moved to southeastern Minnesota in 2014. Goals for the remainder of Minnesota will be set in 2015 and 2016. We want to hear from you.

How can you get involved? Starting in January, you can send in comments or attend public meetings to discuss deer populations in the region or area where you hunt, live or work. You’ll also be able to provide input through a questionnaire designed for the process. You can even volunteer to serve on one of five advisory teams that will recommend deer population goals for each goal-setting block. You can nominate yourself through Monday, Nov. 17. Apply online.

Even with the reduced harvest, I am really looking forward to the deer opener. I will be spending much of the season with my son, Hunter. He’s a good partner. Like me, he enjoys the sights and sounds of the woods, likes sharing stories at the end of the day, and really likes the report of his trusty .308.

It’s possible we’ll see some antlerless deer we can’t harvest, like many other folks. And that’s OK. It’s OK because we are rebuilding the herd. And it’s OK because for us success is not only about filling tags. It’s also about spending time together, being hunters, enjoying the outdoors and building the memories. We’Il have a good time together. And I expect even better times ahead.

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Klobuchar urges IRS to crack down on tax refund fraud http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/24/klobuchar-urges-irs-to-crack-down-on-tax-refund-fraud/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/24/klobuchar-urges-irs-to-crack-down-on-tax-refund-fraud/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 23:00:51 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=78841 NEWS RELEASE — Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) urged the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to crack down on tax refund fraud. With tax refund fraud on the rise in recent years,

Klobuchar and a bipartisan group of 15 senators sent a letter to IRS Commission John Koskinen calling on the agency to make fraud reduction a top priority.

Klobuchar has introduced the STOP Identity Theft Act to help crack down on identity thieves and protect victims by focusing law enforcement resources and increasing penalties on perpetrators. Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Lamar Smith (R-TX) have introduced companion legislation that passed the House of Representatives last month.

“With billions of dollars at stake, we believe that finding a solution to the problem of identity theft-related refund fraud should be a top priority for the IRS,” the Senators wrote. “We understand that the IRS may not be able to stop all refund fraud, but a lot more can be done within the IRS’s current authority to reduce the risk of fraud and improve taxpayer services. It is essential to stem the tide of this crime before another tax season passes by and billions more taxpayer dollars are stolen.”

In cases of widespread fraud across the country, criminals using stolen information such as Social Security numbers have been electronically filing false tax returns before the legitimate taxpayer files their tax return and steals the taxpayer’s refund. The victims often experience long delays in receiving their rightful refund or never receive it at all.

The STOP Identity Theft Act of 2013 would direct the Department of Justice to focus its resources in areas with a high rate of tax-return identity theft and to coordinate investigations with state and local law enforcement agencies. The bill would increase the maximum jail sentence on perpetrators from 15 to 20 years and expand the definition of a victim of identity theft to allow for prosecution in cases where organizations and businesses—not just individuals—are victims of fraud.

The full text of the Senators’ letter is below:
Dear Commissioner Koskinen:

We are writing to request information regarding the IRS’s efforts to prevent identity theft-related refund fraud.  There has been a substantial increase in this kind of fraud in recent years with $5.2 billion being lost to fraudulent tax returns in 2013, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). GAO characterized this growing problem as a “persistent, evolving threat to honest taxpayers and tax administration” in its latest report on the subject.

We understand that the IRS may not be able to stop all refund fraud, but a lot more can be done within the IRS’s current authority to reduce the risk of fraud and improve taxpayer services.  We would like an update from you on what you have done to date with respect to the following:

·         Accelerating the verification of tax return information.  By law, the IRS has 45 days after a return is due to issue a refund without interest, yet refunds are typically issued just 9.6 days after a return is filed, according to the GAO.

·         Providing victims of tax-related identity theft with a single point of contact, as recommended by the National Taxpayer Advocate for several years.  According to the Taxpayer Advocate, “without a single person responsible for transferring cases from one function to another,” cases can become “stuck” or lost in the process.

·         Allowing taxpayers to “turn off” electronic filing, as the Taxpayer Advocate recommended to the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth as long ago as 2011.  More than 80 percent of tax-related identity theft occurs through electronically filed tax returns.  Shouldn’t taxpayers have the option to disable any electronic filing of their tax return?

·         Allowing any taxpayer to request an identity theft PIN, regardless of whether or not they have been a confirmed victim of identity theft.   We understand that the IRS has launched a pilot program to allow anyone in states with high fraud rates to request an identity theft PIN.  We would appreciate an update on your efforts, if any, to convert this pilot program into a nationwide program.

In addition to the need for improving IRS’s existing safeguards and services, we are concerned that the IRS has yet to devise a comprehensive plan to address the problem, if given additional resources. With billions of dollars at stake, we believe that finding a solution to the problem of identity theft-related refund fraud should be a top priority for the IRS. Therefore, we respectfully request responses to the following questions:

1.      With respect to detecting, deterring, and criminalizing taxpayer identity theft, please explain how you currently prioritize resources and describe how you intend to allocate resources to this problem in the future.  Please also explain what additional statutory authority, if any, the IRS needs to seriously address the problem.

2.      For each of the 2012, 2013, and 2014 calendar years, how many taxpayers filed an affidavit alleging identity theft or refund fraud?  If possible, please also identify, in dollar terms, how much of the fraud identified through the affidavits still resulted in money being sent to fraudsters.

3.      What are the total costs associated with undertaking each investigation into tax-related identity theft?  To date, what percentage of the cases resulted in funds being recovered?

4.      Does the IRS plan to fully assess the costs and benefits of accelerating information matching, whether it be moving up Form W-2 deadlines or delaying the filing season, as recommended by GAO?  If so, when?  If not, why not?

5.      Do you disagree with any of the GAO’s recommendations, as cited in their September report titled “Additional Actions Could Help IRS Combat the Large, Evolving Threat of Refund Fraud?”  If so, please explain.

6.      What further action, if any, does the IRS intend to take to combat this problem prior to the next tax filing season?

Please provide a timely response to these questions. It is essential to stem the tide of this crime before another tax season passes by and billions more taxpayer dollars are stolen.

Sincerely,

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Lemon laws offer new car buyers sweet protection, says BBB http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/22/lemon-laws-offer-new-car-buyers-sweet-protection-says-bbb/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/22/lemon-laws-offer-new-car-buyers-sweet-protection-says-bbb/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 23:52:40 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=78808 NEWS RELEASE — Burnsville, MN —  Paying a hefty price for a new vehicle only to discover that it doesn’t live up to promised standards can be frustrating.

Fortunately for consumers, all states have a lemon law in place to help those who purchase new cars with unfixable flaws. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) reminds consumers that such laws are there to help them resolve their issues with most manufacturers when vehicles don’t meet performance and safety standards.

What’s covered:
Minnesota’s Lemon Law applies to new vehicles that are driven at least 40% of the time for personal use. The law covers pickup trucks and vans, as well as used vehicles still under the original manufacturer’s warranty. The first report of a defect must occur within the warranty period, or two years, whichever comes first. The defect must also be major enough that it “substantially impairs the use and value of the vehicle.” Examples of such defects would be:

■ Engine knocking/noise

■ Failure to stay in alignment

■ Overheating

■ Sunroof/Moonroof leakage issues

It should be noted that these are just examples. Other flaws could also qualify the vehicle as a lemon. Small problems like cosmetic defects, a bad radio or a faulty air conditioner may not be covered. Dealers, however, are required to honor warranties for such issues. Also worth noting: To qualify for the lemon law, the problem cannot be the result of abuse, neglect or unauthorized modifications by the consumer.

Lemon laws also state that a reasonable number of attempts to fix existing problems must first be made before a car is covered. Under Minnesota’s law, cars fit the lemon category if:

■ There have been four unsuccessful attempts made to repair the same problem

■ The vehicle has been out of service at least 30 days during the warranty period, due to a warrantable repair.

■ At least one repair attempt for safety issues, such as the failure of steering or braking systems, has been made.

The Lemon Law has Minnesota roots. In 1975, prior to the enactment of the Minnesota Lemon Law, BBB of Minnesota entered into a consent pilot program with General Motors, the first of its kind in the nation. The program was to offer consumers that purchased new cars – which were still under warranty – relief from vehicles they alleged had defects which could not be fixed. The program would keep the issue out of the court system and offer an opportunity to use BBB alternative dispute resolution services in the form of arbitration. Trained, neutral arbitrators were able to award remedies such as replacement, repurchase, repair or denial of the claim.

Nationally, BBB still offers this free arbitration program – called BBB Auto Line – with General Motors and many other car manufacturers. Visit http:/www.bbb.org/council/programs-services/dispute-handling-and-resolution/bbb-auto-line for a list of participating manufacturers.

What you will need
Consumers are advised to keep all paperwork involved in every repair made to the vehicle in question. Here is what should be documented:

■ Phone calls and trips to the dealership, repair department and manufacturer

■ Dates and reasons for each visit

■ Defects with the vehicle and what attempts to repair were made

■ Expenses you have had to pay

■ Towing receipts

To ensure a smooth process with Auto Line you will need the vehicle identification number, make, model and year of the vehicle and the current mileage. If you have questions about the Minnesota Lemon Law, visit thefirstbbb.org and click on the “Is your car a lemon?” button.

The mission of Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public. We are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.

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Charting the Future is subject of discussion throughout Minnesota http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/22/charting-the-future-is-subject-of-discussion-throughout-minnesota/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/22/charting-the-future-is-subject-of-discussion-throughout-minnesota/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 23:48:36 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=78806 NEWS RELEASE — St. Paul, MN – Issuing credit for prior learning and ways to resolve transfer issues are just two of the many issues addressed by Charting the Future.

Nearly two years of collaboration and discussion about the future of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities debut ideas around these issues and others at a series of 39 events kicking off in the metro area today (Tuesday, Oct. 21) at Saint Paul College.

At these events, implementation teams are presenting and gathering feedback on strategies for improving service to students and communities across the state, strengthening the state’s public colleges and universities, and protecting their unique character and autonomy.

“These events represent a key milestone in the Charting the Future initiative,” said Rassoul Dastmozd, president of Saint Paul College. “In light of the significant challenges threatening the ability of our system to meet its commitments to the state of Minnesota, this work could not be more important. As a member of the Student Success team, I am very much looking forward to hearing what students, faculty, and staff have to say about our initial ideas.”

The implementation teams, consisting of campus leaders plus representation of all faculty and staff bargaining units and both student associations, have been meeting since May. They were tasked with developing initial plans to implement the six recommendations previously adopted by the MnSCU Board of Trustees. The purpose of the Gallery Walks is to present initial themes developed by four of the implementation teams and gather feedback from faculty, staff, students, and the community. The product of the other four implementation teams will be the subject of a similar set of Gallery Walks during the spring of 2015.

Each work group is presenting a set of concepts designed to support the Charting the Future recommendations, and within each concept, a set of specific directions that could be taken in implementation. Attendees are offered the opportunity to discuss the directions and concepts with workgroup representatives as well as campus implementation team members.

The Schedule of 2014 Charting the Future Gallery Walks: http://www.chartingthefuturemnscu.com/gallery-walk-schedule/

Feedback may also be submitted through the Charting the Future blog.

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system includes 24 two-year community and technical colleges and seven state universities serving more than 430,000 students. It is the fifth-largest higher education system of its kind in the United States.

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National Farmers Union says USDA can make any necessary changes on COOL http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/20/national-farmers-union-says-usda-can-make-any-necessary-changes-on-cool/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/20/national-farmers-union-says-usda-can-make-any-necessary-changes-on-cool/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 17:20:46 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=78780 NEWS RELEASE — Washington, D.C. — National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson said that today’s (Monday, Oct. 20) ruling by the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) can be handled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and reminded lawmakers of the strong support by the public and in rural America for the popular labeling law.

“American consumers want to know where their food comes from, and America’s family farmers and ranchers are proud to provide that information,” said Johnson. “Nothing about today’s ruling changes that rudimentary fact.”

This most recent challenge to COOL, filed by Canada and Mexico, challenges the final rule put forward by USDA and comes on the heels of an earlier WTO ruling that found the U.S. has the right to require labeling of meat products, but found fault with how the rule was implemented.

“Under the guidance of USDA, any changes to COOL to ensure full compliance with today’s decision should be able to be made administratively, while maintaining the integrity of COOL labels,” said Johnson.

A May 2013 public opinion poll found that more than 90 percent of consumers support COOL, and feelings for the labeling law are equally strong in rural America. “We are confident that given that level of support, Congress will reject all heavy-handed attempts to make legislative changes to this important labeling law,” said Johnson.

Since its passage in 2002, COOL has been under constant attack both domestically, by the U.S. meat industry, and internationally. On each and every domestic occasion, the rulings have come down in support of COOL.

This recent ruling will likely take many months to resolve, since it will undoubtedly be appealed, and the WTO process is slow moving. Just as NFU has played an active role in legally defending this rule in U.S. courts – and has so far won every legal ruling in court – NFU will also work with USDA and U.S. Trade Representative to see that our WTO rights are protected and that we will comply with any final WTO decisions. Now is not the time to change the law. It is the time to see the WTO process through to an ultimate conclusion.

National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.

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Klobuchar issues statement on CSX and Canadian Pacific Railway ending merger talks http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/20/klobuchar-issues-statement-on-csx-and-canadian-pacific-railway-ending-merger-talks/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/20/klobuchar-issues-statement-on-csx-and-canadian-pacific-railway-ending-merger-talks/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 17:15:54 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=78778 Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen.Amy Klobuchar today (Monday, Oct. 20) released a statement in response to CSX Corp. and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. ending discussions about a potential merger.

In a letter last week to Attorney General Eric Holder and Surface Transportation Board (STB) Chairman Daniel Elliott, Klobuchar raised concerns over the competition implications of a possible merger of the two railroad companies.

As chair of the Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, Klobuchar has introduced legislation to repeal the outdated and anticompetitive antitrust exemption for railroads and make railroad mergers subject to full antitrust scrutiny by DOJ.

“A CSX-Canadian Pacific Railway merger would have raised major competition concerns in the rail industry, and I am pleased that these companies have broken off their talks,” Klobuchar said. “With ongoing shipping delays putting a major strain on Minnesota agricultural producers, energy consumers, and Iron Range taconite plants, we need to be doing everything we can to promote competition in this industry to help ensure low prices and high quality services.”

Klobuchar and Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) have introduced bipartisan legislation to address so-called “captive shipping” and help promote fairness and competition in the railroad industry. The Railroad Antitrust Enforcement Act removes the railroad industry’s obsolete exemption from the antitrust laws. Doing so would require that the railroad industry play by the same antitrust rules as other industries, resulting in more competitive pricing that helps keep costs down for shippers and customers.

The full text of the senator’s letter to Attorney General Holder and Surface Transportation Board (STB) Chairman Daniel Elliott is below:
Dear Attorney General Holder and Chairman Elliott:

I am writing to you about concentration in the railroad industry and specifically the recent reports of a potential merger between CSX Corp. and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd.  Given recent concerns about shipping delays and ongoing concerns about anticompetitive conduct in the railroad industry, any further consolidation would prompt significant concern.

The industry has recently been plagued with complaints about rail shipping delays.  As I travel across Minnesota I continue to hear from agricultural producers and energy consumers who are experiencing significant delays in service.  This has led to lost sales, involuntary shutdowns at processing facilities, and disruption to agriculture markets.

I have also long heard concerns from the shipping industry about the railroad industry’s antitrust exemption and the anticompetitive conduct that occurs as a result.  Without access to competition, rail customers are often in a “take it or leave it” position with respect to both price and service.  I have long been concerned about costs for shippers and the recent delays are another example of why we need more railroad competition.  That is why I introduced the Railroad Antitrust Enforcement Act, S. 638, to repeal the outdated and anticompetitive antitrust exemption.

Given the potential merger between CSX and Canadian Pacific, one of the most concerning aspects of the railroad industry’s antitrust exemption is that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has no independent authority to review and, if appropriate, block or condition a railroad merger.  Under current law, the DOJ can only play an advisory role to the Surface Transportation Board, which holds the sole authority to approve Class I railroad mergers if it finds  them to be “consistent with the public interest,” 49 U.S.C. § 11324.  It is important to recognize the significance of the Surface Transportation Board’s review.  However, the DOJ has a different mandate under Section 7 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. § 18, which prohibits transactions that threaten “substantially to lessen competition in any line of commerce in any section of the country.”  The DOJ’s Antitrust Division is uniquely qualified to conduct this analysis.  Virtually every other sector of our nation’s economy is subject to merger review at either the DOJ or Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  The railroad industry is unique even among other regulated industries such as airlines and telecommunications where there is a full antitrust review at the DOJ or FTC along with concurrent reviews at the Department of Transportation and Federal Communications Commission, respectively.

Should CSX and Canadian Pacific agree to merge, I expect your agencies to fully review the competition implications of such a combination.  Until the Department of Justice is given the full authority to independently review the legality of railroad mergers under the Clayton Act, I ask that the Surface Transportation Board give full weight to the antitrust analysis of the Antitrust Division.

We can all agree that competition is an effective way to ensure low prices, high quality service, and innovation.  I am pleased that the Surface Transportation Board has launched an inquiry into competition in the railroad industry.  However, more can be done to promote competition, including making railroad mergers subject to full antitrust scrutiny by the Department of Justice and subjecting the entire industry to the antitrust laws.  I look forward to working with you on these important issues.

Sincerely,

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BBB says to make Halloween costume experience delightful, not frightful http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/16/bbb-says-to-make-halloween-costume-experience-delightful-not-frightful/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/16/bbb-says-to-make-halloween-costume-experience-delightful-not-frightful/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 18:49:32 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=78710 halloweenbooBurnsville, MN – If you’re looking to buy or rent a fun or frightful Halloween costume this season, you’re not alone.

The National Retail Federation expects a record number of consumers will buy costumes this year, spending roughly $7.4 billion on candy, pumpkins, decorations and costumes.

It’s a holiday many love, and retailers respond to that with specialty “boo”-tiques which set up shop in October and are gone by the time the calendar flips over into November. When shopping for a costume this year, Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) advises that you read the fine print to ensure your night is a treat.

“Halloween offers something for almost everyone, even if you just like candy,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “But for those buying or renting costumes, it’s important to be clear on all of the terms and conditions.”

Here are some BBB tips to make sure you won’t be haunted by impulse purchases this Halloween:

• Look for a brick and mortar store. Though not extremely commonplace, some costume shops are open year-round. For more elaborate costumes or simply for peace of mind, you may want to consider transacting with a shop that has a permanent address. Even so, you’ll still want to be clear on their rental and return policies.

• Do your research. Many seasonal stores are run by reputable retailers who take advantage of short-term leases on vacant space to set up temporary stores. However, other shops may be “here today and gone tomorrow.” While it’s always a good idea to research BBB Business Reviews at bbb.org, it may also beneficial to read customer reviews to learn more about costume stores in your area.

•Read the fine print. Even seasonal stores have the same responsibilities as a year-round operation. Make sure to note the store’s refund and return policies; familiarize yourself with all of the terms and conditions – they have to be made available. Keep in mind that some stores may not accept returns on Halloween costumes you’ve purchased.

• Know what to expect before renting a costume. Many rental costumes tend to be sturdier than the average Halloween costume, but make sure you understand your responsibilities. What happens, for example, if the costume rips, or you get a stain on it or lose it altogether? Do you have to pay a penalty in addition to the price of the costume? Be sure everything is spelled out clearly in the rental agreement.

• If you’re renting, return your costume on time. Most stores rent costumes on a daily/nightly basis, meaning you pick up your costume the day of your event and return it the following day. Failure to do so may mean you’ll be charged with additional fees.

• When purchasing costumes online, do it securely. Check a site’s security settings. If the site is secure, its URL (web address) should start with “https.” You also may see a small picture of a closed lock in the lower right corner of the screen.

For more helpful consumer tips, visit http:/www.bb.org.

The mission of Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action to inform, assist and protect the general public.

The BBB is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact BBB at http:/www.bb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.

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Administration releases over $100 million in critical heating assistance for Minnesotans http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/15/administration-releases-over-100-million-in-critical-heating-assistance-for-minnesotans/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/15/administration-releases-over-100-million-in-critical-heating-assistance-for-minnesotans/#comments Wed, 15 Oct 2014 22:02:07 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=78676 NEWS RELEASE — Washington, D.C. – After a push from U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, the Administration today (Wednesday, Oct. 15) released over $100 million in critical heating assistance for Minnesota seniors and families.

Earlier this month, the senators joined a bipartisan group of 44 senators calling on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to quickly release as much heating aid as possible.

In the last few years, spiking energy costs have led to a significant increase in demand for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) which Minnesota seniors and families rely on to help keep their heat on during the winter months.

“Last winter’s freezing temperatures showed us how critical heating aid is to ensuring Minnesota families can pay their heating bills and put food on the table,” Klobuchar said. “With winter fast approaching, we need to do everything we can to make sure that Minnesotans aren’t left out in the cold. This funding will help ensure that families and seniors across our state have the support they need to keep their homes warm.”

“With cold weather in Minnesota just around the corner, no family should have to choose between heating their home and putting food on the table,” Franken said. “Last winter’s record low temperatures reminded us how important this type of support is to families and seniors across Minnesota. LIHEAP eases the burden for Minnesotans to heat their homes, and I’m pleased to see these funds released so quickly.”

Since taking office Klobuchar and Franken have successfully fought to ensure that tens of millions of dollars in emergency LIHEAP funding have been available to Minnesota families and seniors. During a propane shortage last winter, the senators secured an additional $16 million in extra heating resources for Minnesota households.

The full text of the senators’ October letter is below:

Dear Secretary Burwell:

As state agencies prepare their Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) programs for the winter, we respectfully request that the Department of Health and Human Services release LIHEAP funds as quickly and at as high of a level as possible under the current continuing resolution.

LIHEAP is the main federal program that helps low-income households and seniors with their energy bills, providing critical assistance during the cold winter and hot summer months. This funding has been an indispensable lifeline during challenging economic times, helping to ensure that recipients do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and paying for other necessities like food or medicine. On average, low-income families and seniors spend a higher proportion of their income on energy, and for many states, October marks the start of the heating season, creating an additional constraint on these household budgets.

As the relevant state agencies begin to provide assistance for this winter, it is critical that they have the resources to assist low-income households and seniors as soon as possible. Therefore, we request that you quickly release LIHEAP funds and at as high of a level as possible in order to allow states and low-income households to prepare for the upcoming season.

We look forward to continuing to work with you on this critical program, and thank you for your attention to our concerns and those of our constituents.

Sincerely,

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Minnesota’s Cold Weather Rule Starts Oct. 15 http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/13/minnesotas-cold-weather-rule-starts-oct-15/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/13/minnesotas-cold-weather-rule-starts-oct-15/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 18:36:05 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=78630 As the heating season kicks in, the Minnesota Department of Commerce and the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) encourage Minnesotans to contact their utilities now to learn more about the Cold Weather Rule protection to keep homes heated all winter long, and avoid disconnection.

Minnesota’s Cold Weather Rule takes effect on October 15 and protects residential utility customers from having their heat shut off through April 15, 2015. To prevent heating disconnection, customers must contact their utility to establish and maintain a monthly payment plan.

“The Cold-Weather Rule and energy assistance helps Minnesota families that struggle financially with utility heating costs each winter, especially during bitterly cold winters like last year,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “No Minnesotan should be left out in the cold.”

The Cold Weather Rule helps customers who heat their homes with natural gas or electricity to avoid shut-off during the winter months.

To be eligible, customers must contact their utility to work out a payment plan and must make the payments.

Customers who have a combined household income at or below 50 percent of the state median income ($44,912 for a family of four) are not required to pay more than 10 percent of household income; others are also eligible to negotiate a payment plan. Households that need to re-connect for winter should contact their utility now to take advantage of the payments options.

“The Cold Weather Rule is a safeguard for the most vulnerable Minnesotans during our frigid winters,” said PUC Chair Beverly Jones Heydinger. “It ensures that households in need are safe, warm, and healthy. By working out a payment plan with their utility, Minnesota families can keep the heat on while they face financial challenges.”

Minnesota consumers using delivered fuels such as fuel oil, propane, or wood to heat their homes are not covered by the Cold Weather Rule. However, they are also encouraged to contact the companies that serve them to discuss payment options if they are concerned about their ability to pay for fuel. For example, a new law requires propane distributors to offer all customers a budget plan.

More information on the Cold Weather Rule is available at the PUC website or by calling 651-296-0406 or 800-657-3782.

Minnesota’s Energy Assistance Program

In addition to the Cold Weather Rule, Minnesota offers the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, known as LIHEAP or the Energy Assistance Program (EAP) to help pay home heating costs. The Commerce Department administers LIHEAP in partnership with 31 local service providers throughout the state. LIHEAP is federally funded through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The program helps renters and homeowners earning at or below 50 percent of the state’s median income ($44,912 for a family of four) obtain grant money to help pay their heating bills.

The average annual grant per household last year was $500. Households with seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, and children are especially encouraged to apply. Applications were recently sent to households that qualified for energy assistance last year; others who may qualify are encouraged to apply. To apply, contact the local service provider in your county by calling 1-800-657-3710 or visit the Energy Assistance Program section on the Division of Energy Resources website.

While Minnesota consumers using delivered fuels such as fuel oil, propane, or wood to heat their homes are eligible for EAP grants even though they are not covered by the Cold Weather Rule.

Minnesota’s Weather Assistance Program

The Commerce Department also administers the Weatherization Assistance Program, a companion program of EAP. The program provides cost-effective energy conservation measures to reduce energy costs for low-income households. Minnesotans who meet the income guidelines for weatherization may receive weatherization services; they may also receive additional assistance from the utilities. Both homeowners and renters may apply for weatherization.

Other forms of assistance may be available through county social service programs, community-based organizations, and nonprofit agencies. For a list of resources, visit the Stay Warm Minnesota website.

Energy-saving tips

The Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources provides a wide range of energy-saving information that every household can use to help control heating costs. Some basic no-cost and low-cost energy-saving recommendations include:

  • Weather strip and caulk windows and doors to eliminate air infiltration.
  • Cover drafty windows with tightly sealed plastic to keep the warm air in.
  • Open curtains and blinds on south-facing windows to let the sun in during the day to naturally heat your home.
  • Seal air leaks to prevent cold air infiltration through chimneys, vents, pipes, and wires that penetrate walls, ceilings, and attics.
  • Close your fireplace damper when a fire is not in use to prevent warm air from escaping.
  • Maintain your heating system. Have annual furnace or boiler inspections, clean or replace furnace filters regularly, and consider replacing old heating systems with more efficient ENERGY STAR® models.
  • Use a programmable thermostat. Set your thermostat to automatically turn down the heat at night and when you’re not at home.

More energy-saving tips can be found at www.energysavers.gov. For more information on energy efficiency and energy conservation, visit the Commerce Department website and check out two consumer energy guides:Home Envelope and Appliances, Lighting, Electronics.

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Better Business Bureau a sponsor of Cyber Security Summit 2014 http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/09/better-business-bureau-a-sponsor-of-cyber-security-summit-2014/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/09/better-business-bureau-a-sponsor-of-cyber-security-summit-2014/#comments Fri, 10 Oct 2014 00:44:18 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=78569 Burnsville, Minn. – October 9, 2014 –Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is a sponsor of Cyber Security Summit 2014 on Oct. 21-22 in Minneapolis.

The focus of this Summit is to educate attendees on cyber threats and provide actionable solutions. Organizers of the event believe that cyber security cannot be contained and outsourced to any one sector; it requires active engagement of all stakeholders, including entities and organizations – large and small – across every industry.

“Now more than ever, this wide ranging initiative is important for government agencies, educational institutions and businesses of all sizes,” said Lisa Jemtrud, Director of BBB Institute for Marketplace Ethics. “Keeping your data and the data of your customers and vendors secure is an ongoing challenge, one with constantly evolving threats.”

This year’s two-day Summit will showcase prominent keynote speakers and engaging panel discussions, a VIP reception, networking opportunities, and an exhibit area featuring leading industry organizations.

Topics addressed at the Summit will include the latest threats, cyber security crises, large scale breach, liability, risk mitigation, brand visibility, making better decisions faster, password concerns and cyber resiliency.

Summit participants can take part in a lively discussion with fellow leaders and learn about the security strategies that are working today, the strategies that aren’t, as well as the latest trends in national, local and personal cyber security.

Registration for this year’s Summit is now open at cybersecuritysummit.org. The deadline for registration is October 19.

About Cyber Security Summit 2014
The Cyber Security Summit mission is to establish a multi-stakeholder consortium that brings together industry, government and academic interests in an effort to improve the state of cyber security on both the domestic and international fronts.

The Cyber Security Summit is focused on changing the paradigm of how we look at digital space and security. The time is now to Plan Globally and Act Locally to protect our country and its citizens from the latest threats.
 
About Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota
The mission of Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public.

The BBB is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact BBB at http://www. bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.

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Minnesota employers tee up 2015 legislative agenda http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/08/minnesota-employers-tee-up-2015-legislative-agenda/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/08/minnesota-employers-tee-up-2015-legislative-agenda/#comments Thu, 09 Oct 2014 02:45:41 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=78567 St. Paul, MN – Minnesota employers understand the impact that state policy-makers have on their bottom lines.

Nearly 90 percent of the respondents in this year’s Minnesota Business Barometer Survey say the Governor and Legislature play a role – 35 percent said a very important role – in shaping the state’s business climate.

At the same time, 63 percent – including 24 percent strongly so – said elected officials generally do not understand the everyday challenges facing businesses. More than two-thirds said a government decision played a role in a business decision at least several times a month.

These are among the findings of the 11th annual Business Barometer co-sponsored by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and Himle Rapp & Company, a public affairs firm headquartered in Minneapolis. The Minnesota Chamber is the state’s largest business advocacy organization representing 2,300 companies of all types and sizes across the state.

“We’re seeing improvement in the economy,” said Bill Blazar, Minnesota Chamber interim president. “But businesses continue to believe that Minnesota under the present administration and Legislature is pointed in the wrong direction – that current policies will hurt their ability to compete with their peers in today’s global economy.”

The findings provide three pieces of advice for policy-makers if Minnesota is to develop and grow its economy, Blazar noted:

• Decrease, then control increases in business costs. Two-thirds of businesses reported that their tax burden is accelerating, and half said workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance costs are rising. One-third of businesses are concerned about energy affordability, and more than half of the respondents are facing higher health care costs in spite of the promises of the federal Affordable Care Act.

• Continue regulatory reform. Half of Minnesota business owners and managers reported that their business decisions are being influenced by government regulations on a weekly basis, and 72 percent said government doesn’t do a good job of balancing the proper amount of regulation with the need of businesses to keep growing.

• Accelerate workforce development. No message was clearer than the need to address the talent gap in Minnesota. Fewer than half of employers said Minnesota has plenty of workers with the right skills for their industry, and the consensus is that this will affect their ability to do business within a couple of years – if it hasn’t already.

“The workforce findings are of special concern,” Blazar said. “Employers are telling us that workers are less prepared than they were two years ago in the technical skills needed for specific industries. The problem is exacerbated in light of the projected worker shortage that Minnesota faces.”

Taxes, identified by 62 percent of the poll respondents, once again ranked as the major barrier to job creation. Two-thirds of the respondents said their tax burden was higher than five years ago, up slightly from 2012 and 2013 results. Nearly half of the respondents said the tax increases enacted by the 2013 Legislature were damaging to long-term growth.

All of these issues warrant attention by the governor and Legislature, Blazar said, and the Minnesota Chamber is prepared to advance specific initiatives in each of these areas.

“The Business Barometer has been very accurate at identifying future challenges for policy-makers,” explained Todd Rapp, President of Himle Rapp & Company. “Today, even though there is a lot of optimism about Minnesota’s economic future, addressing the skills gap and controlling business costs are two areas where the Minnesota Legislature could help turn this optimism into a major economic boom.”
The Minnesota Business Barometer surveyed a random sample of owners or managers of 350 Minnesota businesses with at least five employees. Interviews were conducted by Morris Leatherman of Minneapolis.

The sample accurately reflects the breadth of Minnesota’s business community in the areas of size, location and type (manufacturing, retail and service). The survey was conducted in July and August and has a margin of error of 5.3 percent.

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Better Business Bureau offers Wi-Fi safety tips http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/07/better-business-bureau-offers-wi-fi-safety-tips/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/07/better-business-bureau-offers-wi-fi-safety-tips/#comments Tue, 07 Oct 2014 19:07:28 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=78518 Burnsville, Minn – October 7, 2014 – When you’re at your favorite coffee shop waiting for your drink to cool, the first thing you might do is open up your laptop and search for a Wi-Fi connection.

Though it is a convenience, Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) seeks to remind the public about the potential dangers of using public Wi-Fi networks.

Many businesses, particularly coffee shops, campus hangouts and even some retailers, have found that offering their patrons free Wi-Fi brings in more business and keeps customers coming back. However, it’s important for consumers to keep in mind that hackers sometimes target public Wi-Fi users to steal their personal information.

To avoid being hacked while using a public Wi-Fi connection, BBB recommends the following tips:

• Verify the network before use. To verify a Wi-Fi network, simply ask an employee at the coffee shop what network they provide for customers. Also, is it password-protected?
• Use common sense when you connect. If you’re signed in through an unsecured or unprotected network, be cautious about the sites you visit and the information you share.
• Invest in your own personal hotspot
— If you have a smartphone, you may also have a hotspot: a device that offers Internet access over a wireless local area network. All you have to do is contact your provider and set up a plan. Keep in mind, though, that while your own personal hotspot is convenient, it’s important to properly set up your security settings.
• Cover up your keyboard when typing in usernames or passwords, as some hackers obtain information simply by glancing over your shoulder.
• If you find a USB thumb drive on a coffee table, don’t use it. Some hackers leave USB thumb drives out in the open because they want you to use them. Once a compromised thumb drive is in your laptop, your personal information can be accessed.
• Keep in mind that a computer should always have the most recent updates installed for spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software and a secure firewall.

In addition to the coffee shop crowd, hackers also target business travelers that spend much of their time in airports and hotels. Such travelers are often busy answering emails, returning phone calls and planning for their next meeting.

When arriving at their hotel after a long day, they might check their email one last time before getting some rest. At such a time, though it may be tempting to simply shut the laptop and nod off, keep in mind that just because a computer is ‘closed,’ that doesn’t mean your information is safe. Always be sure to log out of your online accounts and close out all programs when you’re done using your laptop.

Business travelers and all public Wi-Fi users should also consider the following tips when accessing the Internet on the go:

• atch out for fake networks
— In order to avoid fake networks, ask an employee at the airport or hotel to verify the Wi-Fi network they provide for customers.
• Avoid certain websites, such as social networking or shopping sites, or any website that requires you to use a debit or credit card.
• Keep in mind that banking online via a public Wi-Fi connection carries inherent risks. If you must access your bank information online and in a public place, be sure to check your statement frequently to verify that your account hasn’t been compromised.
— Change your Wi-Fi settings so your computer doesn’t automatically connect to networks. Keep Wi-Fi off when you’re not using it.
• Change your usernames and passwords as frequently as possible.
— Make your passwords complex so hackers can’t easily break into your computer.

Despite the dangers that hackers pose, you can certainly do things to reduce your risk of problems when taking advantage of a public Wi-Fi connection.

For the latest fraud alerts, marketplace news and free BBB Business Reviews, visit http://www.bbb.org.

The mission of Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action to inform, assist and protect the general public.

The BBB is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact BBB at http://www.bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.

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Klobuchar highlights efforts to boost American competitiveness http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/03/klobuchar-highlights-efforts-to-boost-american-competitiveness/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/03/klobuchar-highlights-efforts-to-boost-american-competitiveness/#comments Fri, 03 Oct 2014 14:31:35 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=78487 NEWS RELEASE — Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar on Thursday (Oct. 2) highlighted her efforts to boost American competitiveness during an address to the National Association of Manufacturers.

Klobuchar outlined her competitive agenda for America that promotes long-term economic growth through expanding workforce training, strengthening Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education, passing comprehensive tax and immigration reform, improving infrastructure, and cutting red tape for businesses. Klobuchar also called for the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank so that it can continue helping U.S. firms reach consumers around the globe and break down barriers for exports.

“Manufacturing is a central part of America’s economy, serving as a pathway to the middle class for millions of families,” Klobuchar said. “From increasing U.S. exports to boosting STEM education, we must support efforts to create a competitive agenda for this country that strengthens American manufacturing and moves our economy forward.”

As Senate Chair of the Joint Economic Committee (JEC), Klobuchar has been a leader in efforts to boost America’s ability to compete in the global economy. Klobuchar has authored legislation to help small businesses tap into new markets abroad and has pushed for strong funding for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education for American students. She has introduced the Innovate America Act with Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) that would fund 100 new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) schools, support scientific research, and help remove burdensome regulations for small and medium-sized businesses.

A member of the President’s Export Council, Klobuchar has consistently highlighted the importance of opening up new markets to U.S. exports. She recently released a report underscoring the economic impact of the Export-Import Bank, which found that the Export-Import Bank supported more than 200,000 U.S. jobs and $37.4 billion in U.S. exports in fiscal year 2013 alone. Klobuchar’s report also showed that exports are critical to the manufacturing sector. Nearly 25 percent of production in the manufacturing sector is exported, supporting three million manufacturing jobs, the report found.

Klobuchar has also been a champion of comprehensive immigration reform and has authored bipartisan legislation to reform the visa system to ensure that the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs who get their start in America can stay here.

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Minnesota lawmakers announce more than $17 million to support job-driven training programs http://hometownsource.com/2014/09/29/minnesota-lawmakers-announce-more-than-17-million-to-support-job-driven-training-programs/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/09/29/minnesota-lawmakers-announce-more-than-17-million-to-support-job-driven-training-programs/#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 01:20:36 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=78417 NEWS RELEASE — Washington, D.C. – U.S Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and Representatives Collin Peterson, Betty McCollum, Keith Ellison, Tim Walz, and Rick Nolan today (Monday, Sept. 29) announced more than $17 million in grants to support job-driven training programs at 14 community colleges in Minnesota.

The grants are provided through the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training competitive grant initiative. Funding can be used for developing new curricula and training models, hiring and training instructors, purchasing new equipment, and other activities.

“For Minnesota to succeed in the 21st century economy, we need a 21st century education system,” Klobuchar said. “Our schools need to foster partnerships with local businesses and create new job training opportunities that will connect our students to the jobs of tomorrow that business are creating today. That is the best way for our students to succeed and for Minnesota businesses to remain ahead of the curve and competitive in the global marketplace.”

“One of my top priorities is to help Minnesotans get the tools they need to find good jobs,” Franken said. “Right now, our nation is facing a ‘skills gap’ that has left more than 3 million jobs unfilled because there aren’t enough workers with the skills and training to fill them. That’s why I’ve championed these types of partnerships with legislation in the Senate and why I strongly supported these grants. We need to train students for the skilled jobs that are available and this will bolster that important effort.”

“With these grants, schools will be able to provide Minnesota students with the necessary skills and advanced training needed to succeed in today’s job market,” Peterson said. “Support for job-driven training also benefits our communities by ensuring that Minnesota businesses can employ local, highly-skilled employees.”

“With these TAACCCT grants, the Obama administration is making a great investment in our state’s community colleges,” said McCollum.  “With this support for the education of students in the construction, utilities, and manufacturing fields, we are building the workforce that builds a stronger Minnesota.”

“Minnesota is leading the nation when it comes to training people to find highly-skilled jobs right out of our community colleges,” Rep. Ellison said. “The Department of Labor grant will ensure Minnesota’s community colleges continue to equip students with the skills to find good job opportunities in our communities”

“The number one thing I hear from Minnesota employers is that they need more highly skilled workers in order to grow and compete in the global market,” Walz said. “We must ensure our students have the tools and training they need to fill these good paying jobs, start and provide for their family, and contribute to their local community. These job training programs at community and technical colleges are critical to this endeavor, and I’m pleased we’re taking steps to expand them here at home.”

“I am particularly proud to recognize the leadership role of faculty and students at Pine Technical and Community College in Pine City, Central Lakes College in Brainerd, and Bemidji State University as they use this money to advance their state of the art offerings in rural information technology and manufacturing,” Nolan said. “These grants will help create good jobs and improve our quality of life in northern Minnesota.”

Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Fergus Falls will receive $2.5 million to provide training and certifications in the construction and utilities industry. South Central College in North Mankato is leading a group of 13 colleges that will receive nearly $15 million – including $5.6 million for South Central College – to focus on training in the advanced manufacturing industry.

The 13 schools included in the consortium are: Bemidji State University (360° Center of Excellence in Manufacturing); Century College; Dakota County Technical College; Lake Superior College; Minneapolis Community & Technical College; MN State Community and Technical College; MN West Community and Technical College; Nomandale Community College; Northland Community & Technical College; Ridgewater College; Riverland Community College; South Central College; and Saint Paul College.

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Zebra mussels confirmed in 2 metro lakes http://hometownsource.com/2014/09/27/zebra-mussels-confirmed-in-2-metro-lakes/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/09/27/zebra-mussels-confirmed-in-2-metro-lakes/#comments Sun, 28 Sep 2014 01:22:15 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=78368 St. Paul, MN – Two metro lakes will be designated as infested after the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources confirmed the presence of zebra mussels in them this week, underscoring the need for ongoing vigilance against aquatic invasive species in the state’s waters.

DNR biologists found three of the invasive mussels in Lake Waconia in Carver County, and three in White Bear Lake, which is in Ramsey and Washington counties. Both lakes were investigated after reports from the public.

Last weekend, a local high school science teacher found three zebra mussels while snorkeling around the southeast shore of White Bear, and reported them to DNR aquatic invasive species staff. DNR biologists confirmed the find on Thursday after an extensive search of the area.

The confirmation of zebra mussels in Lake Waconia followed two reports from the public. On Sept. 15, a boater reported one zebra mussel attached to his vessel, which was moored at a private marina on the south end of the lake. On Aug. 30, an angler exiting the lake found zebra mussels attached to aquatic plants on his trailer. DNR biologists subsequently investigating the Waconia reports found no additional mussels at the private marina, but they did find three at the public access on the eastern shore.

In both Waconia and White Bear, the size and location of the zebra mussels found may suggest natural reproduction could be occurring, Lund said. In such cases, control efforts such as the chemical treatment recently tried on Christmas Lake in Shorewood would likely be ineffective.

Zebra mussels are non-native species that can crowd out native mussels and compete for food with other aquatic animals such as larval fish. They attach to boat hulls and other water-related equipment and their sharp shells can create a hazard for swimmers.

Preventing the spread of invasive species takes personal responsibility. Before leaving any water access or shoreland, boaters must remove all aquatic vegetation, dispose of bait, drain all water by removing drain plugs and keep drain plugs out while transporting watercraft. Failure to comply with aquatic invasive species laws can result in stiff fines.

The DNR will post signs about the infestation at both Lake Waconia and White Bear Lake.

People should watch for aquatic invasive species when removing docks, boat lifts, swim rafts and other equipment from the water. If a new infestation of zebra mussels is suspected, the exact location should be noted, a photo taken and a specimen should be kept for positive identification. Call 888-646-6367 or contact a local DNR aquatic invasive species specialist or a fisheries office. Responding quickly to new infestations is critical to curbing the spread into other water bodies.

More information about zebra mussels, how to inspect boats and other water-related equipment, and a current list of designated infested waters is available on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/ais.

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Avoid ID theft tips offered by BBB for students http://hometownsource.com/2014/09/25/avoid-id-theft-tips-offered-by-bbb-for-students/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/09/25/avoid-id-theft-tips-offered-by-bbb-for-students/#comments Fri, 26 Sep 2014 01:19:19 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=78322 NEWS RELEASE – College students have plenty to juggle when it comes to school, work and their social lives.

Due to that level of activity, fighting fraud often doesn’t make the list of top priorities. However, college students are especially vulnerable to identity theft, and Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) offers a list of simple steps students can take to protect themselves on campus.

According to the 2014 Identity Fraud Survey Report released by Javelin Strategy and Research, more than 13 million people became victims of identity theft in 2013. Identity theft was once again – for the 14th straight year – the top complaint reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Last year, 14 percent of the two million complaints they received were related to identity theft, according to their 2013 annual report. The highest reported age group for identity theft was 20-29, comprising 20 percent of those complaints.

“Identity thieves don’t care if you’re a struggling student and don’t have a penny to your name; what attracts them is a clean credit record,” said Dana Badgerow, President and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “This is a problem all college students need to be thinking about.”

BBB recommends that college students take the following steps to keep their identity secure on campus:

• Have sensitive mail sent to a permanent address such as the parents’ home or a PO Box. School mailboxes are not always secure and can often be easily accessed in a dorm or apartment.

• Store important documents under lock and key, such as a filing cabinet or personal safe. This includes your Social Security card, passport and bank and credit card statements. Shred any paper documents that have sensitive financial information rather than just tossing them in the garbage. Also shred any unwanted credit card offers that come in the mail.

• Never loan your credit or debit card to anyone, even if they are a friend. Also just say no if your friend wants you to co-sign for a loan or financing for goods like a TV or new computer.

• Make sure your computer has up-to-date antivirus and spyware software. Always install any updates and patches to your computer’s operating system or browser software which help keep your computer safe from any new advances by identity thieves online.

• Check your credit or debit card statements closely for any suspicious activity. The sooner you identify any potential fraud, the less you’ll suffer in the long run.

• When shopping on unfamiliar websites, always research the company for free at bbb.org. Also look for the BBB Accredited Business seal along with other trust seals; be sure to click on those seals to confirm they are legitimate.

• Check your credit report at least once a year with all three reporting bureaus for any suspicious activity or inaccuracies. You can do this for free by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.

The mission of Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public. The BBB is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Contact BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.

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Met Council research staff develops MetroStats report http://hometownsource.com/2014/09/18/met-council-research-staff-develops-metrostats-report/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/09/18/met-council-research-staff-develops-metrostats-report/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 20:58:32 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=78282 Met Council research staff has developed a MetroStats report based on the latest Census release of American Survey Data.

The report, “Prosperity Imbalanced: The Twin Cities Metropolitan Area in 2013” is posted on the Council’s web pages.

Today (Thursday, Sept. 18), the Census Bureau released estimates from the 2013 American Community Survey (ACS). Collected throughout 2013, the ACS data provide the most current and complete picture of our residents’ demographic, social, and economic characteristics.

MetroStats focuses on comparing the 16-county Minneapolis-Saint Paul-Bloomington metropolitan statistical area (MSP) to other large metropolitan areas in the country. Highlights include the following:

1. Overall, MSP compares very favorably to other large metropolitan areas, with the highest rates of employment, homeownership, and high school diploma attainment among America’s 25 most populous metro areas. 93% of MSP adults have a high school diploma, 77% of working-age civilians are employed, and nearly 70% of householders own their homes.

2. However, not all residents share in this prosperity. MSP has some of the largest racial/ethnic disparities in the country.
• While four in five white, non-Latino working-age civilians are employed, just two in three people of color are.
• Nearly all white, non-Latino residents have family incomes live at or above the poverty threshold, compared to just three in four residents of color.
• Three in four white, non-Latino householders own their homes, compared to two in five householders of color.

3. The MetroStats contains several tables with additional statistics for major racial/ethnic groups.

One FYI — The 2013 ACS is the first to include estimates of computer and Internet access. While that’s not highlighted in the MetroStats, here are some facts:
• Overall, 86% of MSP residents have access to the Internet via a computer or smartphone. This is tied with Portland for the fifth-highest rate of Internet access in the country.

• The “digital divide” is present in MSP: seven in eight (88%) white, non-Latino people have Internet access, compared with four of every five people of color (80%). Nevertheless, this disparity is small relative to other large metropolitan areas.

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Vote early with absentee ballot starting Sept. 19 http://hometownsource.com/2014/09/18/vote-early-with-absentee-ballot-starting-sept-19/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/09/18/vote-early-with-absentee-ballot-starting-sept-19/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 20:52:02 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=78280 St. Paul, MN — Eligible Minnesota voters can vote early for the Nov. 4 General election with an absentee ballot starting Friday, Sept. 19 — and a new animated video from the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State is helping voters understand the process: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5k4xay2Yvc.

Voters may vote early in person at their county elections office or local elections office from Sept. 19 through Nov.3. Or, voters may submit a request online at mnvotes.org for a ballot to be mailed to them. Voters may also download an absentee ballot application, and submit it by mail, email, fax or personal delivery.

In Minnesota, voters do not need an excuse to vote absentee, such as being ill or out of their precinct on Election Day.

“We all have busy schedules that can make it a challenge to get to the polling place on Election Day,” says Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. “Now there is a clear path for eligible voters to use an absentee ballot to cast their ballot early and on their own schedule.”

The one-minute, 30-second video provides an overview of the early voting process and reinforces key tips for voters to ensure their absentee ballot is accepted. One important tip is that voters and witnesses must both sign the absentee ballot envelope.

Military and overseas voters have different absentee balloting procedures and can learn more at: http://www.sos.state.mn.us/index.aspx?page=889.

Online Tools for Absentee Voters at http://www.mnvotes.org
Minnesota voters can request an absentee ballot online at mnvotes.org, the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State’s online hub for voter tools. This service allows voters to apply for an absentee ballot quickly and easily without the need to print, scan forms, and return by mail, fax or email.

Upon requesting an absentee ballot, voters may use “Absentee Ballot Lookup” to find the status of their ballot, such as when it was mailed, and if their ballot was received and accepted by their local elections office. Mail ballot voters may also use this tool.

Voters can use “My Ballot” to view their sample ballot and find links to candidates’ websites.

2014 is a significant election year
This election year, Minnesota voters will head to the polls to decide a U.S. Senate seat, all of Minnesota’s eight U.S. House seats, as well as governor, attorney general, secretary of state and state auditor, and all Minnesota State House seats.

The 2014 election will also include many county commissioners, county sheriffs, county attorneys, auditors, treasurers and recorders.

Key 2014 election dates:
Oct. 14 — Pre-registration deadline for the General Election. Eligible voters are encouraged to pre-register to vote online at mnvotes.org to avoid long lines and waits at the polling place. Voters who miss this deadline may still register at their polling place on Election Day, Nov. 4.

November 4 — General Election Day.
View all 2014 election dates and sign up to receive election-related email updates.

About the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State
The Secretary of State is the chief election official in Minnesota and is responsible for the administration of the state’s election law. In this capacity, the office operates the Statewide Voter Registration System and prepares the official roster of voters for every election. The office also accepts filings by candidates, trains local election officials, and conducts voter education and outreach programs.

The Secretary of State is the keeper of the Great Seal of Minnesota and has the role of certifying the authenticity of a wide variety of official documents, including proclamations and executive orders.

A main function of the office is the review, approval and filing of articles of incorporation and amendments for all businesses and nonprofit organizations conducting business in Minnesota.

The Secretary of State also processes all notary public applications; serves as the state’s central filing system for lien information related to the Uniform Commercial Code; and administers Safe at Home, an address confidentiality program designed to assist Minnesotans who fear for their safety.

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BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota offers customer reviews http://hometownsource.com/2014/09/18/bbb-of-minnesota-and-north-dakota-offers-customer-reviews/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/09/18/bbb-of-minnesota-and-north-dakota-offers-customer-reviews/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 16:56:43 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=78261 Directory_Accred-BusinessBurnsville, Minn – September 18, 2014 – Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) now offers verified customer reviews in their free BBB Business Reviews.

This provides consumers the option of submitting customer reviews after dealing with a business. Though these reviews will not affect companies’ BBB ratings, they will be publicly available after BBB’s review process has run its course.

“When we asked consumers and businesses what else they wanted from our BBB, time and again we heard ‘customer reviews,’” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “So this is another tool we now offer, and our reviews are verified, which is fair to both consumers and business owners.”

BBB rules state that customers may not file a complaint and a customer review in regard to the same transaction. In situations where customers are seeking a resolution from a given company, they are encouraged to file a formal complaint. In other situations where they are looking to commend a business or simply share their experience, they can file an online customer review.

All customer reviews are processed by BBB staff and sent on to the business referenced. Businesses then have 10 days to respond and/or inform BBB the person writing the review wasn’t a customer. From there, the person writing the review is asked to provide verification of the transaction.

Once the 10 days have passed and/or BBB’s verification process is complete, the customer review and business response, if one is provided, are made available online at bbb.org. BBB also monitors for duplicate customer reviews – and complaints – and multiple reviews filed by the same IP address, to prevent possible abuse.

Since Jan. 1, when BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota launched their customer review option, more than 1,100 reviews have been received, with nearly 70 percent of them positive.

“We are pleased to note that a solid majority of customer reviews filed so far reference positive experiences,” added Badgerow. “We know most businesses in our marketplace are upstanding, and we’re pleased to offer this feature to them as a way to stand out and be recognized, and to consumers as another free BBB tool they can use to find reliable businesses.”

BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota is one of 44 BBBs that offer customer reviews. Consumers can file or read customer reviews online at www.thefirstbbb.org. Since March of 2012, BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota has also published complaint details in their free Business Reviews.

For the latest fraud alerts and marketplace news, visit http://www.bbb.org.

The mission of Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public.

The BBB is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.

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Klobuchar receives Golden Triangle Award from National Farmers Union http://hometownsource.com/2014/09/10/klobuchar-receives-golden-triangle-award-from-national-farmers-union/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/09/10/klobuchar-receives-golden-triangle-award-from-national-farmers-union/#comments Wed, 10 Sep 2014 20:47:21 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=78161 Senator Klobuchar is presented the National Farmers Union Golden Triangle Award for 2014 by the Minnesota Farmers Union. (Submitted photo)

Senator Klobuchar is presented the National Farmers Union Golden Triangle Award for 2014 by the Minnesota Farmers Union. (Submitted photo)

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen.Amy Klobuchar has received the Golden Triangle Award from Minnesota farmer and rancher members of the National Farmers Union (NFU).

The National Farmers Union presents awards to members of Congress who have demonstrated leadership on issues relevant to America’s family farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and rural communities.

Klobuchar, who is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, worked to pass the 2014 Farm Bill and served on the conference committee responsible for negotiating the final version of the legislation.

“Our prosperity depends on supporting and strengthening farms and rural communities throughout Minnesota and across the country,” Klobuchar said. “It is a great honor to receive this award and I will continue to work hard to ensure that our family farmers and rural communities have the support they need to continue feeding and fueling our country.”

Klobuchar helped craft the 5-year Farm Bill, which passed earlier this year with strong bipartisan support. The bill reduces the deficit by $23 billion, strengthens the safety net for Minnesota farmers and ranchers, streamlines conservation programs, and supports homegrown energy.

The National Farmers Union was formed in 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers, and rural communities.

The Golden Triangle Award is based on the National Farmers Union symbol – a triangle with “legislation” and “cooperation” forming the sides and “education” as the base.

This year’s Golden Triangle recipients were selected for their leadership on a variety of issues, including the crafting of this year’s Farm Bill and protecting agriculture from deep funding cuts.

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DNR digital tools help plan for time hunting http://hometownsource.com/2014/09/08/dnr-digital-tools-help-plan-for-time-hunting/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/09/08/dnr-digital-tools-help-plan-for-time-hunting/#comments Mon, 08 Sep 2014 17:16:36 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=78108 Hunters making plans for upcoming seasons can get scouting and other services from Minnesota Department of Natural Resources digital tools.

“Hunters have access to maps and aerial photos that can help in finding new hunting opportunities,” said Jay Johnson, hunter recruitment and retention supervisor. “They can buy hunting licenses online including with a mobile phone, check hunting regulations or, after seasons open, go online to register a deer they harvested.”

In addition to registering a deer online, hunters can also go online to register a bear, wolf or turkey.

While studying maps will rarely beat time spent outdoors hunting or scouting hunting land, these and other tools can help in planning routes to and from a deer stand, seeing terrain features and getting a better sense of an area.

Maps
The DNR’s Recreation Compass at http://www.mndnr.gov/maps/compass.html includes everything from state forests to waterfowl production areas to Walk-in Access sites. Deer hunters can see the boundaries of deer permit areas and zoom in to see how permit area boundaries relate to where they hunt. The site also includes a mobile version.

Hunter walking trails provide access to grouse and other small-game hunting, with information at http://www.mndnr.gov/hunting/hwt.

At http://www.mndnr.gov/wmas, learn more about Minnesota’s more than 1,500 wildlife management areas (WMA) that include a total of more than 1.3 million acres managed as WMAs. These areas are open to public hunting and trapping, as well as other uses such as hiking, wildlife watching and cross country skiing. Maps allow users to search by county for WMAs. For each WMA, users can see what types of hunting area allowed, read reports on habitat management, and view maps that show locations of water and different types of trees or vegetation.

A number of other mapping tools can be used. An index of some of them is at http://www.mndnr.gov/maps.

Hunting information
The DNR’s hunting pages can be found through www.mndnr.gov/hunting, which links to a grouse hunting page at http://www.mndnr.gov/hunting/grouse, a waterfowl hunting page at http://www.mndnr.gov/hunting/waterfowl, and a deer hunting page at http://www.mndnr.gov/hunting/deer.

Deer management information can be found at www.mndnr.gov/deer, which includes information about upcoming deer population goal setting.

Hunting regulations can be found at http://www.mndnr.gov/regulations/hunting.

Licenses
Minnesota residents and non-residents interested in hunting can purchase licenses online at http://www.mndnr.gov/buyalicense. The site also includes online harvest registration, vehicle and boat renewal, and safety training certification.

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DNR’s fall color finder will help travelers with trip planning http://hometownsource.com/2014/09/08/dnrs-fall-color-finder-will-help-travelers-with-trip-planning/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/09/08/dnrs-fall-color-finder-will-help-travelers-with-trip-planning/#comments Mon, 08 Sep 2014 17:09:55 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=78105 St. Paul, MN — Minnesota state park and trail visitors will soon be seeing red and orange and yellow and countless other shades of autumn as the leaves and prairies grasses put on their annual show.

To help travelers plan their fall hikes, bike rides, paddling trips and scenic drives to coincide as closely as possible with peak color, staff at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas will update an online fall color finder at http://www.mndnr.gov/fallcolor every Thursday, starting Sept. 4.

This online trip-planning tool includes a map showing where to find peak color across the state, a link to fall color programs and special events, a slideshow and a photo uploader that provides an easy way for people to share their favorite fall color images.

“We’re anticipating a beautiful fall color display,” said Patricia Arndt, communications and outreach manager for the Department of Natural Resources Parks and Trails Division. “It will move across the state quickly, though, so we encourage everyone to get out and enjoy it while it lasts. The fall color finder can help people locate a park or trail to visit or a naturalist program that the whole family can enjoy.”

Family-oriented fall color programs are also listed in a free “Feel the Wow of Fall” brochure available at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas, at Twin Cities libraries and at metro area outdoor retail stores. The DNR Information Center will also mail the brochure to anyone who requests it.

Colors typically peak between mid-September and early October in the northern third of Minnesota, between late September and early October in the central third, and between late September and mid-October in the southern third (which includes the Twin Cities). Peak fall color typically lasts about two weeks, but that can vary widely, depending on location, elevation and weather. Trees at higher elevations are the earliest to show color change.

For smartphone and tablet users, the DNR offers fall colors “to go” on a mobile fall color finder that is integrated with Google maps. To access the mobile version, scan the QR code at http://mndnr.gov/mobile or visit http://www.mndnr.gov/mobile/fall_colors and bookmark the site.

For more information, visit the online calendar at http://www.mndnr.gov/ptcalendar
or call the DNR Information Center at 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

A vehicle permit is required for entrance to Minnesota state parks and recreation areas. Anyone who purchases a one-day permit ($5) can exchange it for $5 off a year-round permit later the same day. Year-round permits, $25, provide unlimited access to all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas for a full year from the month of purchase.

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Pheasant population up slightly; habitat loss still poses biggest threat http://hometownsource.com/2014/09/08/pheasant-population-up-slightly-habitat-loss-still-poses-biggest-threat/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/09/08/pheasant-population-up-slightly-habitat-loss-still-poses-biggest-threat/#comments Mon, 08 Sep 2014 17:05:29 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=78102 pheasant

The Minnesota pheasant season opens Oct. 4 and continues until Jan. 4. Habitat losss continues to be the main cause of a declining pheasant population.

St. Paul, MN – Despite a short-term increase in the number of Minnesota pheasants, habitat loss continues to be the primary factor in the long-term decline of the state’s pheasant population, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The DNR’s August roadside survey for pheasants showed a six percent increase in the pheasant index from 2013, an increase that occurred in spite of a severe winter, a slow start to spring and heavy rains in June.

This year’s statewide pheasant index was 28.7 birds per 100 miles of roadside driven.

The highest pheasant counts were in the southwest, south-central and west-central regions, where observers reported 28 to 62 birds per 100 miles driven. Hunters will find good harvest opportunities in these areas.

Looking over longer periods of time, the 2014 pheasant index is 58 percent below the 10-year average and 71 percent below the long-term average.

Weather and habitat are the two main factors that drive pheasant population trends. Weather causes annual fluctuations in roadside indices. Available grassland habitat for nesting and brood-rearing drives the longer-term pattern.

Like other Midwestern states, the loss of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres is the primary reason there’s been a steady decline in Minnesota’s pheasant harvest since 2006.

“We expect the decline in the rooster harvest to continue because of more anticipated losses in grassland habitat in the next few years as CRP contracts continue to expire and more grassland is converted to cropland,” said Nicole Davros, the DNR research scientist who oversees the August roadside survey.

Pheasant hunters are expected to harvest about 224,000 roosters this fall, which is less than half the number of pheasants taken during the 2005-2008 seasons when hunting was exceptionally good.

Davros cautioned that direct comparisons between survey results from this year and last year may not accurately reflect population trends.

“The 2014 pheasant roadside counts do show improvement over last year’s numbers but we believe there were more birds in the field last year than what we counted because of the late hatch,” Davros said. “This year’s results suggest the survey did not undercount birds so hunting conditions should be comparable to last fall.”

Although many regions in Minnesota experienced a tough winter, conditions within the core of the pheasant range were not as severe. This likely led to higher winter survival for hens as evidenced by an 18 percent increase in the hen index from 2013. Higher winter hen survival leads to more pheasant nests in the spring.

Reproductive indices showed increases from 2013 despite having cooler spring temperatures and substantial rainfalls in June. The number of broods observed per 100 miles driven increased 28 percent and the number of broods per 100 hens increased three percent.

The average number of chicks per brood was down 15 percent compared to 2013, which may be related to below normal survival rates of very young birds during heavy rains in June. The median hatch date of nests was June 16, which was five days later than the 10-year average. Warmer temperatures in June may have helped young chicks survive the rains and drier conditions in July were beneficial for re-nesting birds.

Monitoring pheasant population trends is part of the DNR’s annual August roadside wildlife survey, which began in 1955. DNR wildlife managers and conservation officers in the farmland region of Minnesota conduct the survey during the first half of August. This year’s survey consisted of 171 routes, each 25 miles long, with 152 routes located in the ring-necked pheasant range.

Observers drive each route in early morning and record the number and species of wildlife they see. The data provide an index of relative abundance and are used to monitor annual changes and long-term population trends of pheasants, gray (Hungarian) partridge, eastern cottontail rabbits, white-tailed jackrabbits, mourning doves and other wildlife.

Also recorded in the survey:
• The cottontail rabbit index increased 11 percent from 2013 but remained below the 10-year average and long-term averages.

• The gray partridge index decreased 13 percent, well below its 10-year and long-term average.

• The mourning dove index decreased five percent, well below its 10-year and long-term average.

• The white-tailed jackrabbit index was similar to last year but remains at a historic low.

• The white-tailed deer index was similar to 2013, at 20.8 deer per 100 miles, which is 34 percent above the 10-year average, and 109 percent above the long-term average.

The 2014 August Roadside Survey report and a map of pheasant hunting prospects can be viewed and downloaded from http;//www.mndnr.gov/hunting/pheasant.

Minnesota’s 2014 pheasant season runs Saturday, Oct. 11, through Sunday, Jan. 4.

The daily bag limit is two roosters through November. It increases to three roosters from Monday, Dec. 1, through Sunday, Jan. 4. The possession limit is six roosters (increasing to nine roosters on Dec. 1).

Shooting hours are 9 a.m. to sunset. Additional details are available on the DNR website at http://www.mndnr.gov/hunting/pheasant.

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Baby turtles moving to familiar overwintering locations http://hometownsource.com/2014/09/04/baby-turtles-moving-to-familiar-overwintering-locations/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/09/04/baby-turtles-moving-to-familiar-overwintering-locations/#comments Thu, 04 Sep 2014 21:40:20 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=78083 Help turtles safely cross roads.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is asking people to share the road with hatchling and adult turtles this fall.

Turtles crossing roads in late-August and September are often moving to familiar overwintering locations. Unfortunately, many hatchling and adult turtles’ have to cross roads to get to wintering areas.

paintedturtle

Turtles are on the move in late August and September.

“Roadway mortality is believed to be a major factor in turtle population declines throughout the United States,” said Christopher Smith, DNR nongame wildlife specialist.

In Minnesota, where all turtles are mainly aquatic, overland journeys usually occur: in connection with seasonal movements between different wetland habitats; during the annual early summer nesting migration of egg laden females; or when newly hatched youngsters seek out the backwaters and ponds that will serve as their permanent home. Turtles can travel many miles during a single year, and may even be found far from water; this is no need for concern.

Giving turtles a hand
Here are some tips to help turtles across roads:

• Avoid danger. Simply pulling off the road and turning on hazard lights may alert other drivers to slow down. Be aware of surroundings and traffic.

• Avoid excessive handling. While wanting to inspect turtles closely is understandable, excessive handling can disrupt normal behavior. Prolonged examination of turtles should therefore be limited to only one or two individuals of each species.

• Allow unassisted road crossings. When turtles can safely cross roads unaided due to a lack of oncoming traffic allow them to do so. Observe from a distance and avoid rapid movements, as doing otherwise will often cause turtles to change direction, stop, or seek shelter within their shells.

• Handle turtles gently. If necessary to pick them up, all turtles except Snappers and Softshells should be grasped gently along the shell edge near the mid-point of the body. Many turtles empty their bladder when lifted off the ground, so be careful not to drop them if they should suddenly expel water.

• Maintain direction of travel. Always move turtles in the same direction they were traveling in when encountered. Turtles should always be moved across roadways in as direct a line as possible.

Find more information at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/reptiles_amphibians/helping-turtles-roads.html.

Check out the DNR’s turtle poster: http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/eco/nongame/turtle_poster.pdf.Bab

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2014 BBB Torch Awards for Ethics finalists are named http://hometownsource.com/2014/09/04/2014-bbb-torch-awards-for-ethics-finalists-are-named/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/09/04/2014-bbb-torch-awards-for-ethics-finalists-are-named/#comments Thu, 04 Sep 2014 19:02:39 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=78036 Burnsville, MN –  – Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) has announced the 2014 finalists for our BBB Torch Awards for Ethics.

The Torch Awards recognize worthy companies that strive to go above and beyond in their dealings with customers, employees, vendors and their community. These awards are open to all for-profit businesses located within the Minnesota and North Dakota region which are in good standing with BBB.

“We are very pleased to announce another distinguished group of businesses as finalists for our Torch Awards,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “These organizations are standard-bearers in our marketplace.”

The 2014 BBB Torch Award finalists are:
• Category I (1-10 employees):
EDS Builders, Inc., Lakeland, MN
JD Haas and Associates PLLC, Bloomington, MN
Space2Burn New Media, Minneapolis, MN

• Category II (11-50 employees):
DFC Consultants, Fargo, ND
Electrical Production Services, Chanhassen, MN
ICC Restoration & Cleaning Services, Woodbury, MN
Vujovich Design Build, Inc., Minneapolis, MN
Woods & Thompson, P.A., Minneapolis, MN

• Category III (51+ employees):
I.C. System, Inc., St. Paul, MN
Klein Bank, Chaska, MN
Park Dental, Roseville, MN

The 2014 Better Business Bureau Torch Awards for Ethics ceremony will be held Wednesday, Oct.29, from 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. at the McNamara Alumni Center on the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis campus.

BBB will once again present Student of Integrity Scholarships to high school seniors in Minnesota and North Dakota who demonstrate – through essay or a short video – their understanding of the impact ethical decisions have made in their lives. Scholarship money is awarded directly toward winners’ post-secondary education expenses (tuition or room/board only) at any accredited institution.

The deadline to apply is Tuesday, Sept. 23 at 4 p.m. http://www.bbb.org/minnesota/programs-services/institute-for-marketplace-ethics/student-of-integrity-scholarship/.

This year’s Torch Awards keynote speaker is Tony Heredia, Vice President, Strategy and Operations, within Community Relations at Target. He was previously Vice President of Corporate Risk & Responsibility and Director of Assets Protection.

BBB presents the Torch Awards for Ethics each year to companies who exemplify ethical behavior and display integrity in all aspects of their operations. Nominees are offered the opportunity to submit an entry to the BBB, where a panel of independent volunteer business and community leaders review the entries and choose the winners.

2014 BBB Torch Award for Ethics
Wednesday, October 29 – McNamara Alumni Center, University of Minnesota Campus
11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased online at: http://www.thefirstbbb.org/events
$45/Accredited Business
$405/Table of 10, Accredited Business
$65/General
$585/Table of 10, General

Sponsors for the event are: CHS, Inc., Clear Channel Radio (Cities 97, KDWB, KFAN, News Talk 1130, K102, KOOL 108); Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal; NFP/Financial Concepts, Inc; Master Communications Group; and Rippe Print

Scholarship sponsors are: CenterPoint Energy and Northland Group

The mission of Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public.

The BBB is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact BBB at http://www.bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.

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Boat safe and sober this Labor Day weekend http://hometownsource.com/2014/08/28/boat-safe-and-sober-this-labor-day-weekend/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/08/28/boat-safe-and-sober-this-labor-day-weekend/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:47:35 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=77959 Labor Day weekend marks the end of summer for most Minnesotans. The Department of Natural Resources reminds everyone to keep safety in mind while out on lakes and rivers.

“Safety never takes a vacation,” said Kara Owens, DNR boat and water safety specialist.

“Boaters should wear a life jacket every time they step on a boat and stay away from alcohol; booze and boating don’t mix.”

In Minnesota so far this year, nine people have died in boating accidents compared to nine deaths for the same time period last year.

Boating while intoxicated (BWI) arrests are on a downward trend. This year 59 people have been arrested for boating while intoxicated in Minnesota compared to 81 at this time in 2013 and 146 in 2012.

“We want people to get out and enjoy our weather, but don’t put yourself or someone else in danger by drinking and boating or operating your boat recklessly,” Owens said.

The DNR offers tips for safe and responsible boating including:
• State law requires a U.S. Coast Guard-approved wearable life jacket for each person on board all watercraft.

• All children under 10-years-old are required to wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket while a boat is underway.

• Alcohol and boating don’t mix.

• Take a boater course and receive a boat education certificate.

Find information on boating courses and other boating safety information at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/boatwater.

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