Please enjoy our brief thoughts from the Chamber on what 2016 was like, and what we expect to see for 2017.
2016 was characterized by, I would say, one major event. From January through August I can’t even begin to count the number of hours involved in the Earned Sick and Safe Time (ESST) discussion. This city initiative, similar to that completed in Minneapolis, requires all businesses with employees working in the City of Saint Paul to offer paid sick and safe time to all employees, even those working part-time.
We actively participated in this process in hopes of guiding the discussion towards solutions that we believe were more workable for all employers. We were disappointed that in the end virtually no amendments were provided for various worker categories that we believe called out for relief. We are working with the city on the implementation of the ordinance and hope that through the course of its introduction we can continue to craft common sense modifications that the city will consider and adopt.
In the meantime you can expect to see guidance material from the city early in 2017 with implementation for larger companies on July 1, 2017 and smaller companies (less than 24 employees) on January 1, 2018.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the lawsuit by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce against the City of Minneapolis on their implementation of Earned Sick and Safe Time. While we are not a party to the lawsuit, we do support this effort and believe that clarification from the courts is needed before individual cities proceed in creating a virtually unworkable business landscape. While any decision in this case would be non-binding in Saint Paul, we are tracking the lawsuit closely and will determine at a later date any recourse we may take.
While ESST dominated the landscape, this was hardly the only issue that the Chamber tackled. We remained very active with our civic partners and saw some incredible results. Rice Creek Commons has officially launched in Arden Hills with both the city of Arden Hills and Ramsey County approving the development plan proposed by Alatus. This is a major win for the East Metro with over 400 acres of land being added to the tax rolls with a variety of residential and commercial solutions. Your Chamber was an active and engaged supporter of this project and we are excited to see the project move forward.
We also saw the Ford Site in Saint Paul introduce the public realm and zoning plan, a key milestone for the site. Click here for more information on this fantastic 100 acre plus development in the heart of Saint Paul. We have been very active on this project for years and are looking forward to great things to come.
For the Midway area what could be more exciting than the news that Minnesota United FC will be building a brand new stadium for their MLS team. The stadium is going to be incredible and you had better get your season tickets now!
Transit remains a work in progress, but 2016 saw great advances in the three proposed lines in the East Metro. Gateway, the Rush Line, and Riverview all made strong progress towards being accepted as a program by the Metropolitan Council. Gateway is furthest ahead in early engineering, but both Riverview and Rush made major strides. All three lines terminate at Union Depot and extend transit options for employees across the East Metro. In 2017 both Rush and Riverview will decide on proposed routes and modes (what type of transit), moving both lines ahead in the planning process. Our East Metro Strong initiative continues to make sure the East Metro is both ready for transit and prepared to advance our lines when they move into the Metropolitan Council process.
Across the board we were active with all kinds of direct member issues. From zoning to permits, signage to recycling, our public affairs team worked with members and various city and county functions across Ramsey County. The vast majority of time we were acting as a facilitator, using our contacts and know-how to accelerate results for our members.
We were also proud to work directly with a number of our civic partners, including Arden Hills, Maplewood, and Roseville on various city-led business activities. Our ability to bring business expertise and contacts to the benefit of our partners remains a significant value-add and one that we plan to continue to bring to the table.
On the staff front we continued to “graduate” our team to our members. We had a number of departures and while we hate to lose great folks, we were gratified to see so many of our team members joining Chamber members across the metro! Turnover for us is merely placing our great employees with great members; a benefit for both of us!
We also are finishing our first year in our remodeled offices. Thanks to Securian, McGough Construction, and NTH, Inc. for their help in creating this great space for the Chamber.
A Look Ahead into 2017
Second, in Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman has decided not to run again for a fourth term. This means we will have a new Mayor in Saint Paul for the first time in 12 years. Already there are three announced candidates and we fully expect to see others. Our Political Action Committee will be very involved in this campaign and we expect the Chamber overall to play the role of educating the candidates, and the city as a whole, on the incredible value of having a vibrant, growing, and strong business community. Jobs are the cornerstone of any successful community and we need to ensure that all the candidates understand the value that the business community brings to the table, each and every day.
Finally, 2017 will be…another great year for the Chamber! We don’t have average years any more than our members have average years! We strive to be the best, the most engaged, and the most active chamber in the state acting on behalf of our members. Our team never forgets that our members are the Chamber and that our work is to advance their success. We thank you for the chance to work with you and we wish everyone a wonderful 2017.
With best regards,