By Jason Schmucker
Members of the Waconia Chamber of Commerce met on Jan. 26 for the chamber’s annual luncheon and learned some of what is in store, both at the city and state levels, for the upcoming year.
Waconia Mayor Jim Sanborn told the members of the business community that were in attendance that he had good news for 2017.
“The last couple of years that I’ve come to talk to you, we’ve been announcing or letting you know that we are going to be tearing up all the streets and disrupt all your lives and businesses. I’m happy to say that this year, we’re not going to do that,” Sanborn said. “Highway 5 is pretty much going to stay the way it is, we’re not going to tear up all the streets all the way around the largest employer in town for several months.”
Sanborn said that the largest project looming for the city was updating the city’s comprehensive plan.
“We are going to try to envision what our city is going to look like in 2040, which is not an easy task,” Sanborn said. “We have to take our 2030 plan and figure out what we got right and what we got wrong, even though it’s not 2030 yet, and try to make adjustments to see what our city is going to look like 25 years from now.”
Sanborn said that it is vital that the city gather as much input from the community as possible to help craft and guide the process.
“We will be looking for input from all of you – from citizens, business, other organizations in town. We take into account the townships that surround us, we get input from the county and the state, and try to paint the best picture of what we’re going to look like for the next 25 years and how to get there,” he said.
Sanborn also said that there is a major road construction on the horizon, but one that would not have the impact on the business community that the Highway 5 project did.
“We’re building a little bit of a road by what is now the middle school, to the west of town to help support the new expansion of the school building out there,” Sanborn said. “It’s as big a project as Highway 5, it’s just not going to be as disruptive because we building a new road rather than improving one that exists.”
Republican Rep. Jim Nash, who represents District 47A in the state Legislature, said one of his main focuses for the current session is a complete revamp of the state’s information technology systems.
“My personal passion right now is for you as a taxpayer to interact with the state electronically – it’s tough,” Nash said. “We had some reform back in 2012 with two members of the Legislature that are no longer there, and I have sort of been tasked with carrying that mantle on in my professional life and my real-world life – I work in IT. We are going to fundamentally transform how state IT works.”
Nash said it is his goal to streamline websites and increase user-friendliness across the board for the state government.
“If you have been trying to log on to the MNsure webpage, you know it doesn’t work very well. If you try to interact with many other state agencies, it doesn’t work very well,” Nash said.
Nash said that the revamp will not only increase usability, but will also trim the costs of maintaining the state’s IT infrastructure.
“If you look at the cost of IT internal to the state of Minnesota, it’s astronomical, and from my private life I can tell you that we can shrink the costs and still have a high-quality deliverable,” Nash said. “So, I’ve been named the new nerd down in the Legislature because I’m taking on something that isn’t very exciting – nobody gets very jazzed about IT. But you, the taxpayer, pay for that and you deserve a break. We’re going through budget reviews right now, we’ve received the governor’s budget, and we are going to be squeezing some of the cost of IT out of it.”
Waconia Chamber of Commerce President Kellie Sites told chamber members that it is important to communicate with local lawmakers – both at the state and city level.
“In working with legislators, if they never hear from business, they assume everything is great – it is hunky-dory, you have no issues, you love the regulations, you love the taxes, you love it all. If you don’t talk to them, they don’t know,” Sites said. “I’m an advocate for you and I can say it all day long, but when they hear from your business, it matters.”