As someone who has farmed and worked in the Ag. software industry, I have come to believe in Rise-Up Economics, not trickle-down economics. If we invest in Human Capital--education, vocational training and re-training, healthcare, childcare, transportation, and IT--then workers will earn more money for themselves and their employers by increasing productivity in the workplace. We are near full employment in Minnesota, and if we are going to grow the economy, we will have to do it by increasing productivity.
We are in a child care crisis. Albert Lea’s largest child care center has a waiting list of nearly 300 kids, and within the next three years our area could see 10 in-home child care providers close. This shortage of providers is perhaps our most pressing economic development challenge. Simply stated, businesses need reliable workers in order to thrive, and parents with young children need accessible childcare in order to be reliable workers. This crisis highlights how interconnected we are, how the success of each of us impacts all us. I held a listening session with in-home child care providers in May and will continue networking with them, local leaders, and the Minnesota Initiative Foundation to explore and share strategies for improving child care access. This includes making in-home child care a more attractive and sustainable small business option. Fixing this crisis isn’t going to be easy, but working together I believe we can do it.
Access to high quality, affordable health care is one of rural Minnesota’s biggest challenges. I have served on the Mayo Patients & Family Advisory Council since 2006. We have seen how access is affected when a Non-Profit Public Charitable Organization makes decisions without input from all the stakeholders in the community it serves. This is not just a health care issue, it is an economic development issue. Young families are reluctant to move to a community without a full-service hospital. On the cost side, I know the insurance premiums faced by farmers and the difficult decisions being faced by families due to rising health care costs. The solution to these problems must be bi-partisan and data-driven.
Having taught in two different school systems, I understand how much we are asking of our students, parents, teachers, and districts. Accountability and high stakes testing consume time, resources, and energy. While it is true that we tend to improve the things we measure, sometimes it feels like public education has lost its human connection. We need to create an environment where we encourage all 21st century learners to develop growth mindsets and a sense of community. I will advocate for a stronger connection between high school students and local employers. We must support and encourage our high school graduates who drive our local economies by choosing to live here and work here.