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Pioneer Viewpoints: Minimum wage debate hits home

Last week, the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce issued a statement on its stance on the minimum wage debate that will be one of the hot-button issues at the upcoming legislative session.

While generally in support of a wage increase, the Chamber cautioned against too high of a spike, fearing that would cause harm to some local small businesses. We agree with the Chamber that an increase should happen, but not at the detriment to small business. As one of the poorest counties in the state, a move to put more wages in the pockets of workers is welcome. However, if that move causes businesses to raise prices or to lay off workers or even close their doors, that benefits no one, and it causes more harm to the area.

The Chamber surveyed its members this past fall about the minimum wage issue, and the responses varied. While many business owners/managers reported they already paid above the minimum wage, others said a significant increase would drastically change how they operate, including staffing levels. We urge lawmakers to take a look at these factors when it debates the legislation come February.

Despite its status as a low-income county, Beltrami County and especially the city of Bemidji are fortunate to have a diversified economy. There is industry here, and manufacturing, and a retail and service sector, as well as an education and health care base, not to mention tourism. That will allow the area to better withstand changes in the marketplace. The same holds true with the minimum wage debate and any possible increase. Let’s hope it is done in a responsible way.

Sanford momentum?

It was good to see a strong crowd for the Kenny Rogers Christmas and Hits concert last week at the Sanford Center in Bemidji. Estimates from Sanford Center officials Monday pegged the turnout at about 2,300 plus for the midweek show. We’re sure Rogers’ inclusion of local student singers to be a part of the show boosted attendance, but regardless of why people took in the concert, a successful show for the center and for Bemidji is a positive. The city has a stake in the Sanford Center’s future, and the better the center performs, the better return on investment for all of us.

With concerts from The Band Perry and Chicago on the horizon, as well as the continuation of BSU hockey, not mention the new Indoor Football League, here’s hoping more success at the ticket booth for the Sanford Center.

(Speaking of football, as the Vikings abysmal season comes to an end, we admit we are anxious for some winning football — Go Axemen!)  

In addition, the new Country Inn and Suites, as well as the Cowboy Jacks restaurant, under construction adjacent to the center should boost the bottom line as Sanford Center officials look to attract more convention and business-related events.

As the center looks to become less dependent on city funds for operations, the booking of these shows, as well as the hotel addition, has the ship pointed in the right direction as we turn the page to 2014.