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House Jobs Task Force gets to work

Whether you walk into a coffee shop or local café in a small Minnesota town, talk to small businesses in rural regions, or visit workforce centers in larger cities, you quickly learn that jobs are a top concern for the people of our state.

Over 240,000 Minnesotans have been laid off; many are approaching the end of their unemployment benefits and others who are still working are anxious they could be next. People in our state are hurting, and they are asking for help.

Minnesotans are right to expect that their elected officials are not sitting still, but are working diligently to create jobs and set our state on the path to a solid economic future.

To help us do that, the speaker of the House recently created the House Jobs Task Force, a bipartisan group of legislators from every region of the state. Recently, we held the first of several meetings that will take place over the next two months.

Over the course of these meetings, we will hear from state economists, business owners, workers and employment experts, examining what job strategies work best and considering every tool available to get Minnesotans back to work.

We believe that as a result of doing this work, we can hit the ground running when the legislative session begins next February, putting programs into effect that will help right away. Every piece of legislation we consider will be viewed through the lens of job creation, using every opportunity before us to grow our economy, unfreeze our markets and move Minnesota forward.

One avenue we will explore is a capital investment, or bonding bill.

Last year we focused on projects that were paint brush and shovel ready, creating critical jobs as quickly as possible. This will be our intent again this year -- we will recommend projects that are labor intensive, putting people to work while at the same time improving and protecting our important state-owned assets and infrastructure.

Economists also tell us that the states that are the best prepared and position themselves for a strong recovery will grow faster once we come out of this global recession. Even during times of economic decline, it is crucial that we continue to invest in the future. An educated workforce is key to attracting and maintaining a robust job market.

Research and development in new areas of job growth such as bio-business and green jobs must be considered. Good infrastructure -- roads, bridges and rail are necessary for our private business sector to grow.

With every investment we make, we will look for the highest rate of return and the best investment possible for our state.

We also need to learn from our past. Minnesota has historically led the nation in job creation and ran below the national average in unemployment. Policy changes over recent years, combined with this historic recession, have eroded our place at the head of the line. What worked for Minnesota before can work for us again; we need to look to the policies and programs that made our state strong and better able to withstand economic downturns.

While we all know there is no silver bullet that can turn this job market around, there are steps we can take to speed our recovery. This will be the work of the House Jobs Task Force over the coming months - to listen, learn and implement the policies and programs that will put Minnesotans back to work and restore their confidence in the future.

Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, is majority leader of the Minnesota House.