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Minnesota Chamber Releases Minnesota Business Benchmarks

Nicole Bengtson
Business Ideas, Editorials

Minnesota Chamber Releases Minnesota Business Benchmarks
Annual report reaffirms innovative, skilled talent; workforce shortage a growing concern

A talented workforce remains a backbone of a growing Minnesota economy, according to the Minnesota Business Benchmarks. But the second annual report produced by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and its local Chamber Federation partners cautions that Minnesota could be losing its advantage.

“Our members regularly cite shortage of workers and high taxes as the two biggest impediments to growing and investing in Minnesota. The difficulty of finding workers at all skill levels across all industries is a huge issue for Minnesota businesses,” Chamber President Doug Loon said. “The problem already is exacerbated by a slowing growth in the working-age population coupled with the retiring baby boomers. Plus, we struggle with the persistent achievement gap among students of color.”

The report highlights an additional strain on the workforce. Minnesota is losing more people to other states than it is gaining. This trend is hindering growth opportunities for many companies, Loon said.

Business Benchmarks is a collection of key economic indicators that measure Minnesota’s competitiveness and the health of the state’s economy compared with the rest of the country. Comprehensive, objective data was compiled from sources such as state and federal agencies.

Minnesota continues to lead in many categories, the report shows. But it is slipping in key areas, too.

On the positive front, innovation remains a trademark with Minnesota ranking fourth highest among states in patents per capita. The state ranks second in the nation for residents with at least a two-year degree.  It is 10th best in concentration of STEM jobs – science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The good news/bad news dynamics, however, are reflected in economic growth, Loon said. Minnesota ranked 13th among states for GDP growth in 2015, up from 27th the previous year and tied at the national average of 2.4-percent growth. That improvement, however, was largely on the strength of the first quarter. Minnesota ranked 41st when viewing GDP growth for the final three quarters of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016.

Minnesota improved in job growth and personal income growth but still lags the national averages – ranking 29th and 30th, respectively, Loon noted. And its standing in key tax categories was largely unchanged from 2014. The state is still third highest in the nation for its corporate and income tax rates, and second highest for some business property taxes.

The Business Benchmarks provides an excellent springboard for priorities to focus on at the 2017 Legislature, Loon said. Policymakers and business leaders must work collectively to build on the state’s strengths and minimize its weaknesses.

“We cannot rest on our past successes. We must continue to adapt to changing competitive pressures,” Loon said. “Our work at the Minnesota Chamber is to make Minnesota ready for the future – ready for change and ready to grow.”

For the full report, click here.

The Small Business Makeover Contest is Coming Back to River Heights!

Nicole Bengtson
Business Ideas, Editorials, Event News, Marketing, Social Media

September 6, 2016

2016 Small Business Makeover Contest Logo

The Small Business Makeover Contest is Coming Back to River Heights!

Nominations and Applications Now Being Accepted!

Inver Grove Heights/South St. Paul – Who will be the next lucky winner of the The River Heights Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Makeover Contest this fall?  One local small business will win up to a $20,000 Small Business Makeover ($20,000 of professional services and maybe even some hard cash!) to help them remodel and revitalize their small business! What business wouldn’t want that?

Who Can Enter to Win?

If your business meets the following criteria, you can apply! Nominations and applications are now being accepted!

The Chamber is looking for businesses to apply for consideration for the 2016 Small Business Makeover Contest. We know there are a lot of deserving businesses out there, so don’t be shy!  If you know someone or a business who could benefit, nominate them or encourage them to apply!  Businesses should submit a complete online application here and provide supplemental materials showing/talking about their need for a makeover and the impact the makeover could have on their business.  A winner will be selected by a Selection Committee based on their application and voting results from a public online voting poll this fall.

  • Located in the River Heights region
  • Member of the River Heights Chamber of Commerce
  • In business for a minimum of three years
  • For-profit business
  • 25 or fewer employees
  • Ethical business practices
  • Show a need for a makeover

Why sponsor?

The River Heights Chamber of Commerce is currently seeking In-Kind Sponsors to be a part of the Small Business Makeover Contest by either donating their professional services to the makeover package or by making a donation to fund the grand prize for the lucky winner! More details on how you can support the makeover with sponsorships, in-kind products or services, cash donations, rules, videos and supporting businesses of the makeover package is available at www.riverheights.com/makeover.

Sponsors will receive recognition in Chamber communications including, but not limited to, Chamber Weekly Update email, press releases, social media, videos, blogs and website of the contest. In addition, In-Kind Sponsors will receive recognition for providing their product/service at the winning business.   What a great opportunity to support small business growth, and be a part of a makeover project giving opportunity for new potential business and referrals.  This initiative has the potential to draw state-wide attention from the media and is a great way to demonstrate your company’s support of small business and a community outreach initiative.

Need an idea of an in-kind service?

Services such as marketing/design, website development, digital marketing/seo, signage, printing, public relations, advertising products/services, office supplies/services, financial, accounting, painting, remodeling, landscape and photography are some ideas of how you can participate!


“We are excited to offer this unique opportunity again by holding a Small Business Makeover Contest to support the River Heights Chamber of Commerce’s vision to promote the business community and the growth of a local small business in our area,” says Jennifer Gale, President of the River Heights Chamber of Commerce.  “This is an excellent opportunity for a small business in the River Heights area to gain access to THOUSANDS of dollars’ worth of services and products for FREE and for supporting businesses (sponsors) to be promoted in the business community!  This initiative is a great way to demonstrate your company’s support of small business and a community outreach initiative,” Gale added.


About River Heights Chamber of Commerce

The River Heights Chamber of Commerce is a business organization who aggressively promotes the interests of the business communities of Inver Grove Heights and South St. Paul. The organization is volunteer driven and strives to attract and retain businesses to keep the business community thriving. The River Heights Chamber continues to provide value-added opportunities for all members. Visit our website www.riverheights.com to learn more!


Stay Connected with the River Heights Chamber on our social media sites!

River Heights Chamber Hosts 2nd Annual Chamber Craft Crawl

Nicole Bengtson
Editorials, Event News, Marketing, Social Media

Fall Fundraising Event

River Heights Chamber Crawl Logo

Inver Grove Heights/South Saint Paul The River Heights Chamber of Commerce is excited to bring back it’s Craft Beer and Distillery event called The Chamber Craft Crawl on September 23, 2016 from 5:30 – 11:00 p.m.!

The River Heights Chamber of Commerce holds two fundraisers each year to keep the annual dues affordable for all businesses in the community.  Task Force Chairman Ruth Bader and the committee promise a fun-filled evening starting with happy hour food and games at Jersey’s Bar & Grill in Inver Grove Heights, then moving onto a motor coach to transport our attendees to the evening’s three stops at Norseman Distillery, Insight Brewing and Lake Monster Brewing Company. The event is $65/person (or $50/person without drink tokens) and is open to the public (21 and over please) as well as Chamber members and their friends and family.

The online auction will be running September 12- 23, 2016, so be sure to visit www.riverheights.com/auction to check out all the great items and bid, bid, bid!

An RSVP is required.  For more details and to register, visit the Chamber’s website at www.riverheights.com or call the River Heights Chamber office at 651.451.2266. Casual attire recommended.

Special thanks to the following business sponsors: Event Sponsor: Town Square Television, Location Sponsors: Allrounder Remodeling, Dakota Electric Association, Deerwood Bank, Frattalone Dawnway, LLLP, Wakota Federal Credit Union; Activity Sponsors: Bremer Bank – South St. Paul, Key Community Bank – Inver Grove Heights, Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham and Protouch Painting Inc.

If you are interested in joining us in our fundraising effort by attending, considering a sponsorship, donating a good or service to the auction, or bidding in the online auction to help the River Heights Chamber of Commerce keep the local business community thriving, visit the website www.riverheights.com or contact the Chamber at 651-451-2266.


About River Heights Chamber of Commerce
The River Heights Chamber of Commerce is a business organization who aggressively promotes the interests of the business communities of Inver Grove Heights and South St. Paul. The organization is volunteer driven and strives to attract and retain businesses to keep the business community thriving. The River Heights Chamber continues to provide value-added opportunities for all members. Visit our website www.riverheights.com to learn more!

Jobs, Output & Taxes: New Report Quantifies Freight Rail’s Economic Impact

Nicole Bengtson
Business Ideas, Editorials, Marketing, Social Media


Earlier this year, an economic analysis showed freight rail’s key economic contributions to Minnesota, finding that railroads are responsible for $40 billion of Minnesota’s state GDP and 7 percent of its total workforce. Now, for the first time ever, a new study has quantified the economic impact of freight rail investments at the national level—and how private rail spending “ripples” throughout America’s national and local economies.

For every dollar freight railroads spend on building, maintaining and enhancing America’s 140,000-mile rail network, $10 is generated in economic impact, according to the study from Towson University’s Regional Economic Studies Institute (RESI). Freight rail investments also support 1.5 million jobs across the country—nine jobs for every rail job.

Researchers examined the economic impact of freight railroads’ private investments, which surpass $600 billion since 1980 and are expected to reach $26 billion in 2016. In a State of the Industry report released along with the new study, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) says that the findings demonstrate freight rail’s “powerful economic ripple effect across a myriad of U.S. industries.”

“Whether selling and building automobiles and houses, powering businesses or enabling manufacturers to reach new customers, American industries rely on rail to get raw goods and products to market in the United States and beyond,” writes Ed Hamberger, AAR CEO and President. “The net economic effect is profound.”

Across Minnesota, railroads are a crucial component in transporting almost 248 million tons of cargo that originate in, terminate in or pass through the state in a given year. They also employ over 4,500 Minnesotans in well-paid, community sustaining jobs.

In 2014, the year that was examined in the study, spending by Class I railroads created $274 billion in economic activity and generated nearly $33 billion in total tax revenues. Of these taxes, $11.9 billion were collected at the local and state levels, exceeding the tax revenues collected by 30 states.

SOTI 2 274 Billion V2

The study links the success of this powerful economic engine to the Staggers Rail Act of 1980, which created a balanced regulatory framework that allowed railroads to run like businesses and earn enough capital to invest back into their network.

Researchers pointed to the impact of these private investments for customers, noting that rail productivity has increased 139 percent since the Staggers Act. “Most of these productivity gains were passed through to rail customers—decreasing the cost of utilizing rail transportation.”

Learn more about freight rail’s economic impact in your community and read the study: https://www.aar.org/report2.

Freight Train - Union Pacific

AMERICAN PICKERS to Film in Minnesota

Nicole Bengtson
Editorials, Event News, Marketing, Social Media

Mike Wolfe, Frank Fritz, and their team are excited to return to Minnesota! They plan to film episodes of the hit series AMERICAN PICKERS throughout the region this August.

AMERICAN PICKERS is a documentary series that explores the fascinating world of antique ‘picking’ on History. The hit show follows Mike and Frank, two of the most skilled pickers in the business, as they hunt for America’s most valuable antiques. They are always excited to find sizeable, unique collections and learn the interesting stories behind them.

As they hit the back roads from coast to coast, Mike and Frank are on a mission to recycle and rescue forgotten relics. Along the way, the Pickers want to meet characters with remarkable and exceptional items. The pair hopes to give historically significant objects a new lease on life, while learning a thing or two about America’s past along the way.

Mike and Frank have seen a lot of rusty gold over the years and are always looking to discover something they’ve never seen before. They are ready to find extraordinary items and hear fascinating tales about them. AMERICAN PICKERS is looking for leads and would love to explore your hidden treasure. If you or someone you know has a large, private collection or accumulation of antiques that the Pickers can spend the better part of the day looking through, send us your name, phone number, location and description of the collection with photos to: americanpickers@cineflix.com or call 855-old-rust.

American Pickers Flyer 

AMERICAN PICKERS is produced by Cineflix Productions for History. New episodes air Wednesdays at 9pm EST on History.


River Heights Chamber of Commerce Invites Chamber and Community Members to Sail the Rhine in Luxury

Nicole Bengtson
Business Ideas, Editorials, Event News, Marketing, Social Media

CD - Rhine River Cruise - Newsletter Insert - 2017 (River Heights)

June 1, 2016

Inver Grove Heights/South St. Paul, MN – The River Heights Chamber of Commerce announced today that it will be embarking on a once-in-a-lifetime scenic sail up the gorgeous Rhine River during an exclusive 10-day cruise available to chamber members and their family and friends.

Participants will get to experience the Rhine’s most romantic and legendary sights while aboard the brand-new Amadeus Silver III, set to depart from Amsterdam on May 9, 2017. Over the course of this 10-day trip, travelers can experience first-hand the fascinating history and captivating charm of the cities lining the Rhine’s banks during guided tours and free time for exploring. While in Germany, tourists will see the beautiful religious architecture of Cologne, witness the breathtaking cliffs and ancient castles of Koblenz, taste the famous Moselle wines of Cochem and wonder at the self-playing music boxes in Sigfried’s Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum. The cruise also takes its travelers through the beautiful city of Rothenburg, referred to as Germany’s well-preserved “Jewel of the Middle Ages” with its ramparts, city gates, impressive town hall and the St. Jakob Parish Church. With ample opportunities for learning, tasting, exploring and relaxing, this luxurious journey through the culture-filled Rhine and its European cities is sure to please.

“This is an incredible opportunity to see and experience the true beauty of the Rhine River,” Jennifer Gale, President of the River Heights Chamber said. “And we have secured 5-star accommodations at a significant discount!”

Space is limited, so act fast. Don’t miss your chance to visit the Rhine’s awe-inspiring riversides and create new memories that will last a lifetime.

For more information about this amazing trip please call the River Heights Chamber at (651) 451-2266 or email Jennifer Gale at Jennifer@riverheights.com. You can also find additional information and view the trip itinerary on the links below (click on the photos to enlarge).

Click here to view itinerary brochure



Cologne Cathedral and Hohenzollern Bridge - Cologne - Germany

Cologne Cathedral and Hohenzollern Bridge – Cologne – Germany


River Heights Chamber of Commerce Hires New Director of Tourism

Nicole Bengtson

The River Heights Chamber of Commerce and the Inver Grove Heights Convention and Visitor’s Bureau welcome Tracy Shimek as the new Tourism Director.


“We are excited to have Tracy become part of our team on April 11, 2016,” says Jennifer Gale, President of the River Heights Chamber of Commerce.

With over 10 years of experience in the tourism and hospitality industry, Tracy brings a great breadth of experience, knowledge and established relationships to the position. She has vast experience in creating and implementing marketing material to engage and communicate to current and future clients including direct mail, email, and sales sheet profiles, as well as engaging customer outreach by exhibiting at trade shows and conferences.

In her previous experience with Padelford Riverboats and as a board member for Tour Minnesota Association, she has developed a strong understanding of marketing within the tourism community of the Twin Cities and has experience leveraging relationships to collaboratively promote the region.

Tracy has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Political Science from Gustavus Adolphus College St. Peter, MN where she graduated magna cum laude in June, 2003. She was also a member of Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society.

You can reach Tracy at tracy@visitigh.com.