Thank you to the record number or participants who joined us for the 26th Annual Duluth & St. Louis County Days at the Capitol event last week. Numbers are now confirmed and nearly 600 people attended the Grand Reception on Wednesday evening, including eighteen state senators and thirty-eight state representatives – the largest number of legislators to ever attend the event. Over sixty local organizations/businesses and Duluth Area Chamber members sponsored the event, set up informational booths and helped represent northeast Minnesota with one collective and influential voice.
In addition to the Grand Reception, over fifty representatives from our Advocate and Partner sponsors, including City and County leaders, participated in organized lobbying team efforts on Wednesday morning. Lobby groups met with over thirty-five legislators about multiple issues important to our region.
We concluded the two-day event with the Legislative Breakfast on Thursday morning. The sell-out crowd of 300 heard from local elected officials as well as our keynote speaker Steve Grove, Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).
One of the Duluth Area Chamber’s top legislative priorities this year is advocating for a $25M bonding request for three new hangars at the 148th Air National Guard Fighter Wing. The Duluth Area Chamber Foundation, in close collaboration with the Chamber’s Military Affairs Committee (MAC) led by Chair Jennifer Cady and the Chamber’s Policy Committee led by Renee Appel Mattson, is leading the lobbying efforts for this request. We are grateful for the strong, bi-partisan support in both the Minnesota House and Senate.
On the Senate side, we appreciate Chief Author of Senate File 1023, Senator Grant Hauschild (DFL-Hermantown), as well as co-authors: Senators Jennifer McEwen (DFL-Duluth); Zach Duckworth (Republican – Lakeville, Assistant Minority Leader, military veteran); and Senator Nicole Mitchell (DFL-Woodbury, military veteran). On the House side, we appreciate Chief Author of House File 1193, Rep. Dave Lislegard (DFL-Aurora), as well as co-authors: Rep. Alicia Kozlowski (DFL-Duluth); Rep. Liz Olson (DFL-Duluth); Rep. Natalie Zeleznikar (Republican – Hermantown); and Rep. Jerry Newtown (DFL- Coon Rapids, miliary veteran and Chair of the House Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Committee). We have also met with US Senator Amy Klobuchar and US Congressman Pete Stauber about the 148th and appreciate their strong support.
The 148th made local and national news over the weekend for successfully shooting down an unidentified object over Lake Huron, further demonstrating their incredible relevance to national security, as well as their vast contributions to our community and state. The men and women of the 148th are second to none, and they deserve equipment and hangars second to none. There are currently have several very old, outdated and even potentially unsafe hangars on the base and this funding would help replace those with three new, state-of-the-art hangars to enhance safety and support the Bulldogs’ mission.
You can learn more about that request at duluthchamber.com/148fw. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions and/or would like to be involved in this ongoing effort. MAC Chair Jennifer Cady and I would welcome your questions, feedback, and support, including financial support through the Duluth Area Chamber Foundation. We know this is going to be a marathon, not a sprint, and we will need additional support to help fund this effort and complete this important mission.
Thank you again for showing up in a historically big way for Duluth & St. Louis County Days at the Capitol! Our advocacy efforts began well before the event and will continue long after, but it was incredibly impactful to have so many of you with us in Saint Paul to reiterate the key messages and help advocate for our community, our local business, our membership and our region. There’s much more work to do in the weeks and month ahead, and we’ll continue to keep you updated as we make progress.