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Grow Minnesota presentation outlines regional business climate

Bill Blazar, senior vice president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, presents findings from recent visits to area businesses Thursday in Bemidji.

BEMIDJI – Northwest Minnesota businesses came out of the recession very well, but that momentum may have stalled somewhat since.

That was one of the conclusions from a presentation from Grow Minnesota, a subsidiary of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. Bill Blazar, senior vice president for the chamber, made the presentation Thursday to local business leaders during a luncheon at the Hampton Inn and Suites.

Grow Minnesota spent the last year visiting with almost 800 businesses across the state, including 20 in the Bemidji area and 27 in the northwest region of the state.

 “Statewide, the economy appears to be a little bit stronger than here in northwestern Minnesota,” Blazar said during the presentation.

The region was doing better than the statewide average in introducing new products or services.

“This is a really important indicator of how well our economy is going to do for the next five to eight years,” Blazar said.

The region lagged behind the statewide average in terms of how many businesses said they planned to add jobs, according to the presentation.

“It makes me wonder if the recovery here has lost some momentum,” Blazar said, adding that local companies that did hire had fewer issues recruiting employees than the statewide average.

Dave Hengel, the executive director of Greater Bemidji, lauded the Grow Minnesota program, but cautioned about taking the results alone as representative of the region as a whole.

He added that anecdotally, the region is doing well coming out of the recession.

“What I’m hearing from companies is pretty positive right now,” Hengel said.

Blazar said future visits will allow for more information to build on.

“The information I think is useful in terms of helping individual companies do better,” Blazar said. “But it’s also useful in terms of allowing the region to think about, ‘OK what can we do to make this a better place to do business?’”

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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