Hometown Source » Press Releases http://hometownsource.com from ECM Publishers, Inc. Wed, 26 Nov 2014 23:18:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Howling For Wolves calls on the Minnesota DNR to end baiting, trapping, and snaring in upcoming late season of the wolf hunt http://hometownsource.com/2014/11/26/howling-for-wolves-calls-on-the-minnesota-dnr-to-end-baiting-trapping-and-snaring-in-upcoming-late-season-of-the-wolf-hunt/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/11/26/howling-for-wolves-calls-on-the-minnesota-dnr-to-end-baiting-trapping-and-snaring-in-upcoming-late-season-of-the-wolf-hunt/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 23:18:04 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=79486 St. Paul, MN – Minnesota-based wolf advocacy group Howling For Wolves calls on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to discontinue the use of baiting, trapping, snaring in the upcoming late season of the wolf hunt.

The late season of the Minnesota wolf hunt is scheduled to begin this Saturday, Nove. 29 and will close Jan. 31, 2015 (or earlier if the harvest target is reached). Firearm or bow and arrow are methods allowed during both the early and late wolf hunt seasons. Traps and snares are allowed only in the late season.

“Baiting, trapping, and snaring of wolves is unpopular and reckless. We call on the Minnesota DNR to end these cruel methods to hunt wolves, which also kill other animals like domestic dogs. Random killing of wolves through a hunt makes wolf packs unstable, creating problems that are unpredictable for communities, farmers, and wolf packs,” said Howling For Wolves Founder and President Dr. Maureen Hackett.

• Baiting involves using electronic wolf pup distress calls and meat piles to lure wolves.

• Trapping is using pressure-activated traps with metal jaws that snap shut tightly around a wolf’s lower leg and restricts the wolf until the trapper returns to dispatch the animal. Steel foothold traps and wire snares are indiscriminate devices that are commonly found with other non-targeted wildlife including moose, bald eagles, and domestic pets such as dogs.

Snaring is using a loop of metal wire that acts like a noose to choke an animal. Wolves’ thick neck muscles often prevent their suffocation; instead they suffer painful brain bleeds. Wire snares are inexpensive and can be used in unlimited quantities during wolf season, and many are never removed.

The use of traps and snares is unpopular in Minnesota. A recent Lake Research Partners survey found a majority of voters oppose the use of traps, snares, and bait to hunt and trap wolves in Minnesota. Sixty-six percent (66%) of voters oppose allowing the use of traps and snares to hunt Minnesota’s gray wolves.

In 2014, there is a wolf hunting season harvest target set by the Minnesota DNR of 250. So far, 124 wolves have been harvested in the early season.  This past summer record-high numbers of wolves were also killed for predation suspicions, demonstrating that packs are most likely younger and less able to hunt. In the 2013 wolf hunt, there was a harvest target of 220 and a total of 237 wolves were reportedly killed by hunters. In the 2012 wolf hunt, there was a target harvest of 400 and a total of 413 wolves were reportedly killed by hunters.

Howling For Wolves (HFW) is a wolf advocacy organization that aims to educate the public and policy-makers about wolves to foster understanding and tolerance, and to ensure their long-term survival in Minnesota.

HFW seeks innovative non-lethal solutions for conflict prevention and coexistence where wolves are perceived to be a threat. HFW opposes the random killing of non-problem wolves for sport and the cruel methods utilized. Efforts focus on Minnesota’s gray wolves, which is the largest and only original wolf population remaining in the lower 48 states. http://www.HowlingForWolves.org.

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‘North Star Summit: A Vision for Minnesota’ set for Dec. 8 http://hometownsource.com/2014/11/26/north-star-summit-a-vision-for-minnesota-set-for-dec-8/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/11/26/north-star-summit-a-vision-for-minnesota-set-for-dec-8/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 23:13:53 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=79484 St. Paul, MN – Stakeholders representing the private and public sectors will convene Dec. 8 to identify common goals for Minnesota’s higher education system to meet the state’s looming workforce needs.

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce is among the sponsors of “The North Star Summit: Mapping Economic Prosperity for Minnesota.”

The event is scheduled for 8:30 a.m.-noon Dec. 8 at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul. It is open to the public. For details and to register, go to http://mnbiz.cc/1xY5zSl .

“Our membership has been telling us for years that it is a challenge to find qualified workers in many industries. Add to that the fact that our labor force in Minnesota will not grow much these next 15 years,” said Sarah Radosevich, policy research analyst at the Minnesota Chamber. “The result is that Minnesota really needs every potential worker – young and old – to know what the job opportunities are and to be able to access the education or training necessary to fill those roles. Employers have to play a key role in this, but all the stakeholders are at the table.”

Participants will look at potential policies – everything from career exposure to retraining – and help determine the most promising steps the state can take to help Minnesota meet its demographic and labor force challenges into the future. The summit is being spearheaded by Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, chair of the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee.

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Klobuchar heralds arrival of Minnesota tree at U.S. Capitol tree lighting ceremony on Dec. 2 http://hometownsource.com/2014/11/24/klobuchar-heralds-arrival-of-minnesota-tree-at-u-s-capitol-tree-lighting-ceremony-on-dec-2/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/11/24/klobuchar-heralds-arrival-of-minnesota-tree-at-u-s-capitol-tree-lighting-ceremony-on-dec-2/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 22:24:50 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=79472 Washington, DC – On Tuesday, Dec. 2nd, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar will herald the arrival of the Minnesota tree at the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in Washington, D.C.

This year’s tree comes from the Chippewa National Forest in northern Minnesota and arrived at the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol after completing a 2,000-mile cross-country journey.

The tree will soon be decorated with thousands of ornaments that have been handcrafted by people from across Minnesota.

WHO:
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar
U.S. Sen. Al Franken
Congressman Rick Nolan
Speaker of the House John Boehner
Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers

WHERE:
West Front of the U.S. Capitol. Press locations include:
·         West Front Lawn: Entry points located at Garfield and Peace Circles on First Street via First Street and Maryland Avenue SW and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. View includes tree, podium and the U.S. Capitol Dome.
·         Lower West Terrace: Access the Terrace by exiting the West Front door of the Capitol.

WHEN:
Tuesday, Dec. 2
5 p.m.

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Cyber Monday brings busy holiday shopping weekend to a close; 10 online shopping tips offered http://hometownsource.com/2014/11/24/cyber-monday-brings-busy-holiday-shopping-weekend-to-a-close-10-online-shopping-tips-offered/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/11/24/cyber-monday-brings-busy-holiday-shopping-weekend-to-a-close-10-online-shopping-tips-offered/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 22:17:28 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=79470 Burnsville, MN – After Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, savvy shoppers go online to take advantage of Cyber Monday specials.

Cyber Monday, which takes place the Monday after Black Friday, has grown increasingly popular among consumers in recent years, as they look for clearance sales some retailers offer online.

Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) offers their top 10 tips for people doing their shopping online, be it on Dec. 1 – Cyber Monday – or throughout the holiday season:

1. Protect your computer – Your computer should always have the most recent updates installed for spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software and a secure firewall.

2. Stick to trustworthy websites – Research the seller’s reputation and track record for customer satisfaction at bbb.org. Look for the BBB seal and other widely-recognized “trust marks” on retailer websites. Always remember to click on the seals to confirm that they are valid and check out customer reviews online, including those offered by Better Business Bureau.

3. Protect your personal information – Take the time to read the privacy policy of websites you visit and understand what personal information is being collected and how it will be used. If you don’t see a privacy policy posted, be aware your information may be sold to others without your permission.

4. Beware of deals that sound too good to be true – Offers found on less-traveled websites and in unsolicited emails sometimes advertise suspiciously low prices. When visiting a website, look for misspellings and grammatical errors, as these are signs the site might be fraudulent. Trust your instincts and be leery of unsolicited emails, as they may contain viruses or malware. Don’t be afraid to pass up “deals” that might wind up costing you money instead of saving you money.

5. Beware of phishing – Legitimate businesses do not send emails claiming problems with an order or a past transaction to lure the “buyer” into revealing financial information. If a consumer receives such an email, BBB recommends picking up the phone and calling the retailer you dealt with or your credit card provider to get to the bottom of the matter. Stay calm, don’t panic and always be protective of your personal and financial information.

6. Confirm your online purchase is secure – Shoppers should always look in the address box for the “s” in https:// and in the lower-right corner for the “lock” symbol before paying.

7. Pay with a credit card – It’s often best to use a credit card, because under federal law, the shopper can dispute the charge if he or she doesn’t receive the item. Shoppers also have dispute rights if there are unauthorized charges on their credit card or merchandise they receive is damaged or defective.

8. Keep documentation of your order – After completing the online order process, there should be a final confirmation page or the shopper might receive confirmation by email. Save a copy of that as well as any emails for future reference and as a record of your purchase.

9. Check your credit card statements often – Don’t wait for paper statements; the BBB recommends consumers check their credit card statements for suspicious activity by checking statements online regularly or by calling their credit card companies if fraud is suspected.

10. Know your rights – Federal law requires that orders made by mail, phone or online be shipped by the date promised or, if no delivery time was stated, within 30 days. If the goods aren’t shipped on time, the shopper can cancel and demand a refund. There is no general three-day cancellation right, but consumers do have the right to reject merchandise if it’s defective or was misrepresented. Otherwise, it’s the company’s policies that determine if the shopper can cancel the purchase and receive a refund or credit.

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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Mary Lahammer receives 2014 Outstanding Media Communications Award from Minnesota Farmers Union http://hometownsource.com/2014/11/24/mary-lahammer-receives-2014-outstanding-media-communications-award-from-minnesota-farmers-union/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/11/24/mary-lahammer-receives-2014-outstanding-media-communications-award-from-minnesota-farmers-union/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 21:44:37 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=79459 Award recipient, Mary Lahammer and MFU President, Doug Peterson.

Award recipient, Mary Lahammer and MFU President, Doug Peterson.

St. Paul, MN – Minnesota Farmers Union honored Mary Lahammer of Twin Cities Public Television with their 2014 Outstanding Media Communications Award at the Minnesota Farmers Union 73rd annual state convention, held Nov. 22-23 at the Ramada Plaza in Minneapolis.

“Mary Lahammer is a farm and city girl who appreciates rural communities and family farmers.  It’s rare that you have a professional personality that is so widely respected and revered for her support of family farmers, consumers and chefs.  Throughout her professional career, Mary has articulated and advocated for the role of family farmers and has dedicated much of her life to educating consumers about farm issues.” said Doug Peterson, Minnesota Farmers Union President. “We are honored to have Mary Lahammer on the side of family farmers.”

Mary has been a program host and political reporter for public television since 1998. She has been called the “Best Newscaster” by City Pages and the “Best TV Reporter” by Minnesota Monthly.

Mary started at the University of Minnesota’s Honors College at 15 and graduated as a Phi Beta Kappa with summa cum laude.  She learned the business of journalism through her father, who worked as an Associated Press Capitol reporter for more than 30 years.

Mary has won numerous Emmys and other awards for her work, including as a producer of Farm Fresh Road Trip.

She comes from a long line of family farmers and her family still currently owns a working farm.
 
About Minnesota Farmers Union
Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) works to protect and enhance the economic interests and quality of life of family farmers and ranchers and rural communities.

MFU is a nonprofit membership-based organization.  Membership is open to farmers and non-farmers.

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Coalition Against Big Trucks, law enforcement officials launch awareness about big trucks http://hometownsource.com/2014/11/24/coalition-against-big-trucks-law-enforcement-officials-launch-awareness-about-big-trucks/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/11/24/coalition-against-big-trucks-law-enforcement-officials-launch-awareness-about-big-trucks/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 17:33:27 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=79418 NEWS RELEASE — St. Paul, Minn. — With the holiday travel season getting under way, leading safety advocates  and the Coalition Against Big Trucks gathered in St. Paul today (Monday, Nov. 24) to voice their concerns regarding a proposal to increase size and weight limits for semi trucks that would endanger motorists.

Those speaking out against bigger trucks on Minnesota roads included Minnesota State Patrol Sgt. Mathew Hodapp, chairman of the National Troopers Coalition, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, Carver County Commissioner Randy Maluchnik, Ramsey County Commissioner Blake Huffman and representatives of AAA Minneapolis.

“Bigger trucks are a recipe for disaster,” said Sgt. Hodapp. “As a State Trooper, public safety is my top priority. There is nothing safe about bigger trucks on our roads. And with thousands of Minnesotans traveling to visit family and friends over the next several weeks, now is the time to raise awareness about the dangers of bigger trucks on our roads.”

Nationwide, holiday travel is expected to see its highest levels since 2007, according to AAA.  Of the 46.3 million estimated travelers in 2014, 89% will be using their automobiles, including those who live in Minnesota.

“With holiday travel season upon us, we need to keep motorists safe.  AAA Minneapolis has a long history of advocating for strong highway safety standards in Minnesota,” said AAA Minneapolis President & CEO Wendy Weigel. “Allowing heavier trucks access to our highways jeopardizes motorist safety through pavement distress and contributes to the deterioration of roadways and bridges.”

During the last legislative session lawmakers introduced a bill to increase semi truck size and weight limits from 80,000 pounds to 97,000 pounds on state and local roads. Similar legislation is expected to be introduced in 2015.

County officials, including Sheriff Stanek, Commissioner Maluchnik and Commissioner Huffman also spoke out against the proposed change.

“Bigger semis mean one thing – bigger risks for Minnesotans on our roads,” said Sheriff Stanek. “As the Sheriff of Minnesota’s largest county, I encourage legislators to consider the safety impact of bigger trucks on our roads.”

In 2012, there were more than 1,900 large-truck crashes in Minnesota, including 60 fatalities. While 2013 fatality data has not yet been published, there were 2,452 large-truck crashes last year, a 28-percent increase compared to 2012. Studies have shown that larger trucks cause more severe accidents and fatalities.

Research published last year was conducted at Marshall University by the Multimodal Transportation and Infrastructure Consortium (MTIC), a University Transportation Center recognized by the USDOT Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA).

That study found 95 percent of law enforcement officers believe heavier and longer trucks would be more dangerous. The research also found that 90 percent of truck drivers believe increasing the weight of trucks to 97,000 pounds would negatively impact highway safety.

“Bigger-truck proponents talk about ‘modernizing’ our transportation policy, but we don’t think there is anything ‘modern’ about compromising public safety,” Commissioner Maluchnik said. “Representing a county with miles of rural roads, bigger trucks cause not only safety issues, but are a leading factor in our deteriorating roads and bridges. Our local governments and taxpayers cannot afford this.”

“Keeping Minnesotans safe on our roads is not a partisan issue, it’s a common sense issue,” said Commissioner Huffman. “Helping prevent additional serious accidents is a cause that policymakers from all political persuasions can get behind.”

In addition to safety concerns, bigger trucks cause significant infrastructure damage to roads and bridges.

There were 1,513 structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges in Minnesota as of last year, according to the Federal Highway Administration. An article in the Star Tribune states that 11 percent of the state’s bridges fall into one of those categories, up from 7.7 percent a decade ago.

The Coalition Against Bigger Trucks announced that their effort will include a radio ad airing today through the end of the Thanksgiving weekend.
 
Radio Ad – “Holiday Roads”
Are you on the road this holiday season?

Well next year things could get more dangerous for Minnesota’s motorists.

When the legislature comes back in January, special interests will be pushing for heavier, more dangerous semi trucks on our roads.

Research on bigger semis shows they cause more severe crashes and fatalities.

But you can protect your family from heavier big rigs.

Go online to house-dot-mn or senate-dot-mn to contact your legislators and tell them bigger trucks are wrong for Minnesota. — Coalition Against Bigger Trucks

CABT is a national, nonprofit grassroots organization with coalitions of nearly 5,000 local supporters in over 30 states. CABT local supporters include law enforcement officers, local elected officials, truck drivers, motorists, safety and consumer groups, railroads, and citizens groups. To learn more about the fight against bigger trucks, visit http://www.cabt.org.

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Better Business Bureau offers tips to Black Friday shoppers http://hometownsource.com/2014/11/19/better-business-bureau-offers-tips-to-black-friday-shoppers/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/11/19/better-business-bureau-offers-tips-to-black-friday-shoppers/#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2014 21:03:28 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=79369 Burnsville, MN – The Thanksgiving holiday is right around the corner, and some retailers have already announced at least some of their Black Friday deals.

Though more and more stores are opening their doors to shoppers on Thanksgiving Day, the day after Thanksgiving – Black Friday – will remain one of the biggest shopping days of the year.

Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is offering advice for people making plans to capitalize on Black Friday savings offers.

“Though the impact of Black Friday shopping might be at least somewhat diluted with some stores opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day, we still believe it will be a day where many folks will focus their holiday shopping – and bargain-hunting – efforts,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota.

The National Retail Federation forecasts that holiday sales will increase by more than 4 percent this year. As always, retailers will compete feverishly to get shoppers to visit their stores – and their websites! Whether you’ll be doing your holiday shopping on Black Friday or beyond, be sure to keep these BBB tips in mind to help ensure a satisfactory experience:

• Research the company. Visit http://www.bbb.org or call 800-646-6222 to obtain free Business Reviews. Remember, BBB Business Reviews have been optimized for smartphones.

• Getting the real deal.  Do you know if a sale is really a sale?  Many times companies boast “70 percent off,” but 70 percent off what? It always pays to comparison shop. If a company is advertising a “Going out of Business” sale, don’t automatically assume they are offering the best prices in town. Take the time to check prices on the same items at other stores.

• Search for Black Friday Ads Ahead of Time. Some retailers have ‘gone for it,’ announcing their Black Friday specials well in advance of Friday, Nov. 28. Newspapers often have coupons that outline store discounts for Black Friday, and some specials are posted on the Internet. By keeping your eyes open and nose to the ground, you can sniff out deals others might miss.

• Return policies, restocking fees and refunds.  Ask for the store’s return policy before you make your purchase. Companies are not required to give you your money back, but they need to post their return policy prominently near the cashier. Also, always ask about restocking fees, and save your receipts in one place so you don’t lose them.  Many companies will require you to produce a receipt for a return. Ask for a gift receipt.

• Watch out for deals too good to be true. While many retailers offer ‘doorbusters’ – specials that are eye-opening – some websites offer suspiciously low prices on sought-after goods in an effort to entice shoppers into turning over their credit card information. Stick to trustworthy websites and look for the BBB seal and other recognized “trust marks.” Be sure to click on the seals to confirm they are valid.

• Gift cards. Gift cards regularly top consumers’ wish lists. Federal rules govern gift card sales, and those rules state:

—  An inactivity fee cannot be charged until the card has not been used for 12 months.
—  Gift cards cannot expire for at least 5 years.
—  No more than one fee (of any kind) can be charged to the cardholder in a single month.
—  Information printed on the card must disclose fees and expiration date and provide a toll-free phone number or website where you can get more information.
—   A one-time fee can be charged when you buy the card, though this generally only applies to gift cards purchased through your credit card company – not those purchased directly from stores and restaurants.
—   If you receive a gift card, you should redeem it promptly if, possible.

Finally, consumers should keep in mind there will be many more opportunities for savings as we go through the long holiday season.

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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Gov. Dayton calls for applications to head Iron Range Resources and rehabilitation Board http://hometownsource.com/2014/11/17/gov-dayton-calls-for-applications-to-head-iron-range-resources-and-rehabilitation-board/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/11/17/gov-dayton-calls-for-applications-to-head-iron-range-resources-and-rehabilitation-board/#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 20:33:23 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=79353 NEWS RELEASE — St. Paul, MN – Gov. Mark Dayton today (Monday, Nov. 17) announced that the Office of the Governor is accepting applications to serve as Commissioner of the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB).

The commissioner must lead the Board in its important mission to diversify and improve the economy of the Iron Range.

“The IRRRB has a crucial role in bringing new economic growth and more jobs to the Iron Range,” said Gov. Dayton. “I will work with the IRRRB Board to select a new Commissioner, who will continue the outstanding leadership Tony Sertich has provided the agency.”

Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) is a State of Minnesota development agency located in Eveleth, Minnesota. IRRRB’s mission is to promote and invest in business, community and workforce development for the betterment of northeastern Minnesota. The board is comprised of state senators and representatives elected from state senatorial or legislative districts in which one-third or more of the residents reside within the IRRRB service area. One additional state senator is appointed by the senate Subcommittee on Committees of the Committee on Rules and Administration.

IRRRB provides vital funding, including low or no interest loans, grants and loan guarantees for businesses relocating or expanding in the region. Additionally, a variety of grants are available to local units of government, education institutions, and nonprofits that promote workforce development and sustainable communities.

Individuals wishing to apply may submit a resume and cover letter to Adam Prock, Assistant Chief of Staff to Gov. Mark Dayton, at 116 Veterans Service Building, 20 West 12th Street, St. Paul, MN 55155, or by via e-mail at adam.prock@state.mn.us. Application materials are due by close of business, Monday, Dec. 1, 2014.

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State Auditor Otto releases 2013 Town Finances Report http://hometownsource.com/2014/11/17/state-auditor-otto-releases-2013-town-finances-report/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/11/17/state-auditor-otto-releases-2013-town-finances-report/#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 15:45:45 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=79304 State Auditor Rebecca Otto

State Auditor Rebecca Otto

NEWS RELEASE — St. Paul, MN – State Auditor Rebecca Otto has released the
Minnesota Town Finances Report, a comprehensive report on revenues, expenditures and debt for Minnesota’s towns.

The report analyzes town financial operations for the calendar year ended December 31, 2013.

In 2013, there were 1,783 towns compared to 853 cities and 87 counties. The 2013 population estimates from the State Demographer show that 919,329 individuals reside in towns, representing about 17.0 percent of the state population.  Town populations range from 11,165 in the Town of White Bear to 5 in the Town of Hangaard.

Fifty-two percent of towns have a population of 300 or less.

Highlights from the report include:

Current and Five-Year Trends
—  In 2013, Minnesota towns reported total revenues of $279.8 million.
This amount represents a 0.2 percent increase over the total revenues
reported in 2012.  Increases in tax revenues offset a decrease in
intergovernmental revenues.  The number of towns that failed to report
in 2013 (136) was 40 less than 2012 (176).   An analysis that examined
only those towns that reported both years showed a decrease in total
revenues of 0.7 percent.

—  Minnesota towns reported total expenditures of $267.2 million in
2013. This amount represents an increase of 5.3 percent over the amount
reported in 2012.  An analysis of only those towns that reported in 2012
and 2013 shows that total expenditures among these towns increased 4.5
percent in total expenditures.

—  Debt service expenditures are the principal and interest payments
on outstanding indebtedness.  Towns had debt service expenditures of
$12.8 million in 2013. This amount represents a 3.5 percent decrease
from 2012. Over the five-year period of 2009 to 2013, debt service
expenditures decreased 11.9 percent.

—  Total outstanding short- and long-term indebtedness totaled $70.7
million in 2013. This represents an increase of 2.3 percent over 2012.
Outstanding bonded indebtedness totaled $48.6 million in 2013, which was
an increase of 6.0 percent over the $45.9 million outstanding in 2012.
Other long-term debt totaled $21.2 million in 2013, which was a decrease
of 6.1 percent from 2012. In addition, towns reported $868,480 in
short-term indebtedness in 2013, which was an increase of 34.9 percent
over 2012.

Ten-Year Trends   
—  Between 2004 and 2013, total town revenues in actual dollars
increased 27.5 percent.  In constant, or inflation-adjusted, dollars,
total town revenues decreased 4.8 percent over this ten year period.

—  Since 2004, the share of total revenues derived from taxes has
increased from 65.1 percent in 2004 to 76.4 percent in 2013.  In
contrast, the share of total revenues derived from intergovernmental
sources has decreased from 20.0 percent in 2004 to 14.4 percent in
2013.

—  In constant, or inflation-adjusted, dollars, total town
expenditures decreased 11.4 percent between 2004 and 2013.  In actual
dollars, total expenditures grew 18.6 percent over the ten-year period.

For the complete report, which includes an Executive Summary, graphs
and tables, go to:

http://www.auditor.state.mn.us/default.aspx?page=20141114.000.

The Office of the State Auditor is a constitutional office that is
charged with overseeing more than $20 billion spent annually by local
governments in Minnesota.

The Office of the State Auditor does this by performing audits of local government financial statements, and by reviewing documents, data, reports, and complaints reported to theOffice.  The financial information collected from local governments is
analyzed and is the basis of statutory reports issued by the Office of the State Auditor.

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Better Business Bureau offers advice on the Layaway Process http://hometownsource.com/2014/11/12/better-business-bureau-offers-advice-on-the-layaway-process/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/11/12/better-business-bureau-offers-advice-on-the-layaway-process/#comments Wed, 12 Nov 2014 16:58:53 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=79275 Burnsville, MN – The Great Recession is over, but its effects are still being felt.

One of those effects saw layaway plans reintroduced into the marketplace. With many shoppers still minding budgets and searching for more affordable methods of paying for big-ticket items, layaway plans are worth exploring. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is offering advice on how to use this payment plan in lieu of credit cards.

Once considered a dated, old-fashioned method of payment, layaway services are back, with many retailers dusting offering payment plans for today’s more frugal consumers. Buying items on layaway is different from putting them on a credit card because the buyer isn’t charged interest on the purchase and can’t take the item home until it is paid off. When purchasing items on layaway, the buyer must typically make a down payment of 10 to 20 percent and pay any service or plan fees for the store to hold the item for them. The customer then typically has 30 to 90 days to make periodic payments to pay off the balance. Once it is paid off, the customer can take the item home.

“For many people, layaway plans are a preferable alternative to taking on more debt via their credit cards,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota.

As a complement to in-store layaway, some stores provide online layaway services for purchasing items through the retailer’s website. Additionally, third-party businesses have sprung up for the purpose of setting up layaway plans online between customers and retailers that don’t already have a layaway program. Customers make periodic payments to the third-party layaway service provider. Once the item is fully paid for, the business then buys the item from the retailer and ships it to the customer.

When buying items on layaway, the BBB advises consumers to get everything in writing and offers the following checklist of questions to ask:

• How much time do I have to pay off the item?

• When are the payments due?

• How much do I have to put down?

• Are there any storage or service plan fees?

• What happens if I miss a payment? Are there penalties? Does the item return to inventory?

• Can I get a refund or store credit if I no longer want the item after making a few payments?

• What happens if the item goes on sale after I’ve put it on layaway?

• Does the retailer or third-party layaway service have a good BBB rating? Research them for free at www.bbb.org.

For more advice on how to be a savvy consumer this holiday season, 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 http://www.bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.

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Sen. Klobuchar issues statement on Veterans Day http://hometownsource.com/2014/11/11/sen-klobuchar-issues-statement-on-veterans-day/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/11/11/sen-klobuchar-issues-statement-on-veterans-day/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 15:39:09 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=79241 Sen. Amy Klobuchar

Sen. Amy Klobuchar

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar issued the following statement for Veterans Day, 2014:

“With grateful hearts, Minnesotans will gather together across the state on Veterans Day to honor the brave Americans that have served in uniform to protect our freedom. Today I am especially mindful of the soldiers returning from battle permanently injured and suffering life-altering disabilities.

“Last month in Washington, 14 years after being authorized by Congress, the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial finally opened near the National Mall. This monument honors soldiers from all conflicts and all branches of the military that have returned home from war only to fight a new battle against the wounds of war.

“One of those heroes is Sylvester Mechavich, a 97-year-old World War II veteran who is now in hospice care at the Saint Cloud VA. Serving as a squad leader in the Army during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944, he lost both his eyes to a grenade and suffered other physical disabilities. Despite these injuries, Sylvester went on to live a full life never wavering in his dedication to service or his devotion to his family.

“As a country, we must stand with veterans like Sylvester that stood tall for us on the front lines. That means making reforms to the VA that will increase accountability and ensure veterans have access to high-quality and timely health care. We must also take steps to reduce the unemployment rate for veterans of the post-9/11 wars.

“While the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial is long overdue, a monument alone is not enough – we must provide these heroes with the care needed to recover and opportunities needed to succeed.”

Klobuchar on Monday (Nov. 10) released a report on the employment status of our nation’s veterans.

Klobuchar’s report revealed some progress, with the recent 12-month average unemployment rate for all veterans at 5.6 percent, down from its peak of nearly 9 percent four years ago. However, the study also found that the recent average unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans is still elevated at 7.6 percent, and even higher for female post-9/11 veterans at 8.3 percent.

“As our economy continues to improve, we have seen some progress in reducing the number of our veterans who are unemployed, but we still have a lot of work to do,” said Klobuchar. “This Veterans Day, we should not just thank veterans for their service, but recommit to putting in place policies that make it easier for veterans to find good-paying jobs.”

Klobuchar’s report also found:
• In 2013, Minnesota veterans overall had an unemployment rate of 5 percent. When just post-9/11 veterans were considered, the unemployment rate was 8.8 percent. In 2012, the unemployment rates for all Minnesota veterans and post-9/11 Minnesota veterans were 6.8 percent and 14.1 percent, respectively.

• In 2013, African American and Hispanic veterans had unemployment rates of 8.2 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively. Both were higher than the unemployment rate for all veterans.

• The recent 12-month average unemployment rate for female post-9/11 veterans was 8.3 percent, down from the 2013 average of 9.6 percent and from the 2012 average of 12.5 percent.

• The youngest veterans who have served in the post-9/11 era have had a particularly difficult time securing employment. Last year, 21.4 percent of veterans ages 18-24 were unemployed.

Klobuchar’s report laid out policy proposals that should be enacted to improve transitions to the workplace for returning veterans. One proposal is bipartisan legislation Klobuchar introduced with Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), the Veterans to Paramedics Transition Act, which would streamline the process for veterans with medical training to get in-demand paramedic jobs.

Other proposals recommended in the report include: strengthening and expanding tax credits for employers that hire unemployed veterans; promoting higher education and training opportunities for returning veterans; and providing assistance to help veterans through the challenges of transitioning from active duty to civilian life.

Klobuchar became Senate chair of the Joint Economic Committee (JEC) at the beginning of the 113th Congress. The JEC is a bicameral Congressional Committee composed of ten members from each the Senate and the House of Representatives.

There are 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans on the Committee. The main purpose of the JEC, which was established by the Employment Act of 1946, is to continually study matters relating to the U.S. economy. The Committee holds hearings, performs research and advises Members of Congress.

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‘Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison’ opens at the Minnesota History Center Feb. 14, 2015 http://hometownsource.com/2014/11/10/modern-spirit-the-art-of-george-morrison-opens-at-the-minnesota-history-center-feb-14-2014/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/11/10/modern-spirit-the-art-of-george-morrison-opens-at-the-minnesota-history-center-feb-14-2014/#comments Mon, 10 Nov 2014 17:13:49 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=79171 "Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison," comes to the Minnesota History Center, Feb. 14 - April 26, 2015.

“Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison,” comes to the Minnesota History Center, Feb. 14 – April 26, 2015.

St. Paul, MN — Drawing on his physical and spiritual homelands, artist George Morrison (1919–2000) created works that speak to both American urban settings and the solitude of Northern Minnesota.

His paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures have been displayed in numerous public and private exhibitions, and he is one of Minnesota’s most cherished artists. Yet because Morrison’s artwork typically does not include overt references to his Indian heritage, it has stirred debate about what it means to be a Native American artist.

View a survey of his prolific career in the exhibition, “Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison,” at the Minnesota History Center, Feb. 14 – April 26, 2015.

“Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison” was organized by the Minnesota Museum of American Art and Arts Midwest, with the Plains Art Museum.

The exhibit includes about 80 drawings, paintings, prints and sculptures that bring together concepts of abstraction, landscape and spiritual reflection. Kristin Makholm, executive director of the Minnesota Museum of American Art said, “This first, comprehensive retrospective of his work will reveal how visions of identity and place play an essential role in assessing American art of the 20th century and beyond.”

“We’re pleased to host this exhibit at the Minnesota History Center,” said Brian Szott, head of collections and art curator for the Minnesota Historical Society. “We hope this exhibit will help provide Morrison—a major player in the modern art movement—with the critical attention he deserves.”

The core of this retrospective issues from one of the largest and most important collections of Morrison’s artwork in the country, at the Minnesota Museum of American Art in St. Paul.

Some of these pieces were lent for a two-person show with Allan Houser that helped inaugurate the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., in September 2004. Supplemental works are borrowed from important private and public collections throughout the country, including four pieces from the collection of the Minnesota Historical Society.

Public Programs
Modern Spirit Exhibit Preview, Feb. 12, 7 to 9 p.m., $15/$12 MNHS members
Enjoy exclusive early access to the exhibit and a complimentary dessert and a coffee bar. Copies of the exhibition companion book signed by curator W. Jackson Rushing III will be available for purchase in the History Center gift store. Tickets are $15 or $12 for MNHS members. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 651-259-3015 or online at tickets.mnhs.org.

History Lounge: George Morrison, A Life in Art, Feb. 17, 7 p.m., free
Join Margot Galt as she relates stories of working with Morrison on his biography, Turning the Feather Around: My Life in Art, and what it revealed about one of Minnesota’s most important and beloved artists. Margot Galt teaches creative writing at Hamline University. This program is free.

North Coast Nosh, Feb. 19, 7 to 10 p.m., $20/$15 MNHS members
Celebrate the traditions and flavors of Minnesota’s indigenous people with “The Sioux Chef” Sean Sherman. Sherman will curate a program that includes tasting and conversation with indigenous food and drink purveyors, in the setting that the Heavy Table’s popular “North Coast Nosh” series is known for. Tickets are $20 or $15 for MNHS members. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 651-259-3015 or online at tickets.mnhs.org.

Credit
“Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison” is organized by the Minnesota Museum of American Art and Arts Midwest, with the Plains Art Museum. The exhibition and its national tour are supported by corporate sponsor Ameriprise Financial, foundation sponsor Henry Luce Foundation, and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. Major support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and the generous contributions of individuals across the Midwest.  Learn more at www.mmaamorrison.org.

The Minnesota History Center showing of “Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison” is funded in part by the Legacy Amendment’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the vote of Minnesotans on Nov. 4, 2008.

Hours and location
The Minnesota History Center is located at 345 Kellogg Blvd. W. in St. Paul. Exhibit gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays (admission is free on Tuesdays from 5 to 8 p.m.), 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Auxiliary aids and services are available with advance notice. For more information, call 651-259-3000 or 1-800-657-3773.

Admission
Admission to “Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison” is included with regular History Center admission of $11 for adults, $9 for seniors and college students, $6 for children ages 6 to 17; free for children age 5 and under and MNHS members.

The Minnesota History Center holds the collections of the Minnesota Historical Society. The History Center is home to an innovative museum, engaging public programs, a modern library, distinctive gift shops and an award-winning restaurant.

The Minnesota Historical Society is a non-profit educational and cultural institution established in 1849. The Society collects, preserves and tells the story of Minnesota’s past through museum exhibits, libraries and collections, historic sites, educational programs and book publishing. Using the power of history to transform lives, the Society preserves our past, shares our state’s stories and connects people with history.

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Better Business Bureau offers new resource to veterans, service members http://hometownsource.com/2014/11/10/better-business-bureau-offers-new-resource-to-veterans-service-members/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/11/10/better-business-bureau-offers-new-resource-to-veterans-service-members/#comments Mon, 10 Nov 2014 16:35:47 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=79169 NEWS RELEASE — Burnsville, MN – As part of their outreach to the military community, Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota’s local Military Line (BBB) program has partnered with the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance to create a specially-designed tri-fold handout containing tips on scams targeting servicemembers and their families, as well as a list of community resources they can turn to when they have questions, concerns or need assistance.

The handout, which will first be distributed at a MACV StandDown event in Mankato on Wednesday, Nov. 12 – and then made widely available to the military community – is designed in muted colors, to be user-friendly for veterans suffering from symptoms due to traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Reports indicate that up to 20 percent of returning veterans exhibit symptoms of having sustained traumatic brain injuries. People suffering from these symptoms find brighter colors and densely-worded materials off-putting and have difficulty processing information formatted in standard fashion.

“This information is important to all service members and veterans, and when we designed this handout, we did so in such a way that it would be accessible to all,” said Lisa Jemtrud, Director of BBB’s Institute for Marketplace Ethics. “Our goal is to reach and help protect everyone, but especially those that need our help most.”

BBB’s new handout for veterans and servicemembers, as well as their families and caregivers, includes:

• Tips on scams targeting military personnel and their families – and how to avoid them

• An index of resources available to veterans

• Information on payday loans and pension scams

• A list of Do’s and Don’ts designed to protect personal information and help ensure financial security

For more than two years, BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota staff has made presentations at more than 100 events, reaching 10,000-plus people through workshops and military expos.

BBB regularly provides information regarding employment scams at job fairs, offers resources to struggling veterans at StandDown events, conducts workshops on buying a car to veterans transitioning from various support programs and educates service members and their families on how to be smart consumers in today’s fast-paced economy.

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. Mondays through Fridays. Contact BBB at http://www.bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.

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Wolf supporters rally on Saturday to mark start of Minnesota’s third wolf season http://hometownsource.com/2014/11/05/howling-for-wolves-to-rally-nov-8-in-opposition-to-minnesota-wolf-hunt/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/11/05/howling-for-wolves-to-rally-nov-8-in-opposition-to-minnesota-wolf-hunt/#comments Wed, 05 Nov 2014 19:55:13 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=79130 The Minnesota-based advocacy organization Howling For Wolves volunteers gathered in both St. Paul and Duluth to express opposition to the wolf hunt. (Photo submitted)

The Minnesota-based advocacy organization Howling For Wolves volunteers gathered in both St. Paul and Duluth to express opposition to the wolf hunt. (Photo submitted)

NEWS RELEASE — St. Paul, MN – To mark the start of the third consecutive wolf hunting and trapping season, Minnesota-based advocacy organization Howling For Wolves volunteers on Saturday gathered in both St. Paul and Duluth to express opposition to the wolf hunt.

“A recreational wolf hunt is reckless and does not protect Minnesota’s wolf population. Indiscriminately killing wolves makes wolf packs unstable as they scatter when their family units are broken, and the DNR’s wolf hunt recklessly endangers our wolves and confuses the public into believing that a hunt is management.  Our state’s gray wolves are the only original population in the continental U.S., and 80 percent of Minnesotans think the wolf should be protected for future generations. Suspending the wolf hunt and banning the baiting, snaring, and trapping of wolves for recreation should be a priority for our government leaders in St. Paul,” said Howling For Wolves founder and president, Dr. Maureen Hackett.

The St. Paul rally was held on the grounds of the Minnesota State Capitol with 300 participants. An affiliated Duluth rally was held in downtown Duluth on the corner of Lake and Superior streets with 25 participants.

At the St. Paul rally, Howling For Wolves Founder and President Dr. Maureen Hackett announced their new #LiveAndLetLive media campaign to include billboards and radio advertisements, as well as new branding.

About the wolf hunt season
In Minnesota, a total of 3,800 wolf hunting and trapping licenses were available this year, 500 more licenses than last year’s season (an increase of 15 percent).

The statewide target harvest of wolves for this season is 250, 30 more than last year (an increase of 13 percent), which means the DNR is hoping for a 10.3 percent reduction of the population.

The latest wolf population survey results estimate that 470 wolf packs and 2,423 wolves lived in Minnesota’s wolf range this past winter.

Howling for Wolves legislative priorities
Howling for Wolves is urging the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and state lawmakers to:

• Implement the DNR’s 2001 Wolf Management Plan,

• End the cruel and indiscriminate methods of baiting, trapping and snaring, and

• Suspend the recreational wolf hunt in Minnesota.

Howling For Wolves (HFW) is a wolf advocacy organization that aims to educate the public and policy-makers about wolves to foster understanding and acceptance, and to ensure their long-term survival in Minnesota.

HFW seeks innovative non-lethal solutions for conflict prevention and coexistence where wolves are perceived to be a threat. The group opposes the random killing of non-problem wolves for sport and the cruel methods utilized.

HFW current efforts focus on the Minnesota’s gray wolves, which is the largest and only original wolf population remaining in the lower 48 states. http://www.HowlingForWolves.org.
 

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Minnesota State University, Mankato faculty, vote “no confidence” in MnSCU Chancellor Rosenstone http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/31/minnesota-state-university-mankato-faculty-vote-no-confidence-in-mnscu-chancellor-rosenstone/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/31/minnesota-state-university-mankato-faculty-vote-no-confidence-in-mnscu-chancellor-rosenstone/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 22:44:28 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=78977 The Executive Committee of the Minnesota State University, Mankato Faculty Association unanimously voted “no confidence” in Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) Chancellor Steven Rosenstone at their regular meeting on Thursday, October 30.

This action follows similar votes from the executive committees or senates at both Winona State University and St. Cloud State University. These three campuses are the largest of the four-year schools in the system and represent over half of the students and faculty. All are member of the Inter Faculty Organization, which is the bargaining unit that represents four-year faculty.

Questions about Chancellor Rosenstone’s leadership of MnSCU have been discussed at the IFO State Board as well as the Mankato campus for the past year. Much of the concern has centered on his handling of the Charting the Future (CtF) initiative but extends much further into his oversight of the system.

Outlined in a Bill of Particulars drafted last June, issues include the failure of Chancellor Rosenstone to represent our system effectively at the Minnesota Legislature, to comply with legislative mandates, and to bring our faculty contract to a timely completion. Other particulars cite: His failure to include: faculty input into budget processes and planning initiatives; instances of Rosenstone’s secretive, non-inclusionary, and damaging management decisions, such the hiring of expensive outside contractors (McKinsey) to support “Charting the Future.” He spent $2 million on consultants while the state campuses were suffering crippling budget shortfalls and struggling with declining enrollment.

The failure of MnSCU leadership is all the more disappointing to MSU, M faculty as shared governance as practiced at the local campus has resulted in a positive and productive working environment, a relatively stable enrollment, and a good financial footing

The Faculty Association hopes that its action will encourage the MnSCU Board of Trustees to take a greater role in oversight of MnSCU and redirect the Chancellor to more open and participatory leadership.

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Scammers have gone smishing – Don’t get hooked! http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/31/scammers-have-gone-smishing-dont-get-hooked/ http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/31/scammers-have-gone-smishing-dont-get-hooked/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 15:38:38 +0000 http://hometownsource.com/?p=78973 NEWS RELEASE — Burnsville, MN – Ever since texting became standard practice, consumers nationwide have reported receiving unsolicited text messages.

Some of these messages are nothing more than annoying spam – shady marketing ploys – but others have led to surprise charges on cellphone bills. In some cases, text messages people have received have even purported to be from their banks or credit unions.

Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) reminds people to be leery of offers or informational messages received via text, as there may be a hook attached!

Smishing is when scammers attempt to obtain or steal personal information via fraudulent cellphone text communications. These messages are usually designed to get the recipient to follow up with personally identifiable – or sensitive financial – information.

The fraudulent messages generally claim there’s a problem with the recipient’s debit cards, credit cards or bank account, and that the accounts in question have been frozen. People are then prompted to call a toll-free number, where they’re instructed to provide their personal or account information, opening the door to identity theft and/or fraud.

To avoid smishing and other text message scams, consumers are advised to:

Contact BBB at 1-800-646-6222 if you have concerns about a text message you’ve received. Trained resource specialists are on hand from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to answer questions from the public.

• Never provide personal or financial information to unknown parties and don’t click on any embedded Internet links in unsolicited text messages.

• Unless you’ve signed up for text alerts, don’t respond to text messages allegedly sent by your bank or credit union. Even if you have signed up for such alerts, it’s always a good idea to verify the information you’re given.

• If you have concerns about your bank or credit card accounts, contact your local branch or credit card provider directly as soon as possible.

• Stay calm. Keep in mind that if there is a problem with one of your bank or credit card accounts, it can be straightened out. Call or visit your financial institution and speak with a representative.

• Don’t rely on your caller ID. Scammers can use technology to make it appear as though their calls and texts are coming from legitimate businesses or financial institutions.

• Check for grammatical errors. Smishers are getting more creative as far as how they attack their victims, but some don’t even take the time to correct simple mistakes like spelling errors.

• If you receive a spam message containing a marketing offer, monitor your cellphone statement regularly to monitor for unusual charges. Contacting your cellphone carrier to block premium text messages may help prevent unauthorized charges.

• Report the incident to organizations such as BBB, the FTC and local law enforcement. Spreading the word may help prevent others from falling victim to bogus text messages.

Some consumers have also reported receiving text messages saying they’ve won cash prizes or new cars. As with emailed messages of this nature or phone calls you might receive, BBB advises people to apply common sense – does it sound too good to be true? Also be on the lookout for spam text messages that give you an ‘opt-out’ option. In those situations, BBB suggests simply deleting the message, as any action you take tells the sender your number is in use and that could open the door to still more spam text messages.

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 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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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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