She prefers that money be spent on roads and bridges, not a Senate office building
District 1B Rep. Deb Kiel spoke to a small crowd in the Crookston City Hall Chambers last Friday during her Town Hall tour. She spoke about Minnesota's economy and how she continues to be concerned about the level of investment in northwestern Minnesota.
"There's a lot of money spent on things like a new senate office building or transit that's not being used that should go to our roads and bridges," explained Kiel. "There are pothole concerns in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area that have been known to make flat tires."
Jim Folz of Crookston Fuel added, "Potholes are an issue here too. Driving down Highway 75 is like playing dodgeball. We're always hearing about the roads in Minneapolis, but never here."
"I agree," answered Kiel. "We need to upgrade our roads to 10 ton roads and fix things right here."
Another subject she touched on was a pilot program for housing in Pennington and Roseau counties.
"Can you talk about the TIF credit in those counties? What is $2 million going to do?" asked CHEDA director Craig Hoiseth.
"It's just a pilot program and my guess is it will bring them more people to those communities and draw people to move there," said Kiel. "People are looking for a rural setting to go to after work. I consider Crookston a rural setting after leaving the cities. It's so nice and quiet here."
She added, "I know Crookston could spend that $2 million really quick if they had it."
One thing she did mention about Crookston was how much technology is being researched at the Northwest Research and Outreach Center, formerly the Northwest Experiment Station, at the University of Minnesota Crookston.
"Agriculture is important here and one cool technology advance we could start to see soon is drones managing our fields," said Kiel. "It's amazing what I've seen happening over at UMC with research. They will be able to fly a drone and site fields with a fungus to resolve issues quicker. The drone has propellers and can secure an iPad to it to monitor things. We already have tractors that can almost drive themselves, so this is a great student education opportunity. It will make for more kids moving back here."
The town hall meeting ended with discussion from Ward 5 Council Member Dale Stainbrook and Tri-Valley CEO Jason Carlson about kids in high school and what they will do after they graduate.
"I'm concerned with kids in the high school not being provided the skills they need if they're not planning on attending a four-year college after graduation," said Stainbrook. "There's jobs like welding, construction and other things that are good skills to have. We want to keep them here to work, but instead they're moving. The Bakken oil fields recently had a seminar a few months or few weeks ago hiring for anyone to work drywall, construction or anything like that."
Kiel answered with, "I agree that kids should have more options to learn skills for working, but we don't have the teachers here to do it. When you're a 20-year-old and can get a job out west for $80,000 a year, that's something. DigiKey and Northland College in Thief River Falls have developed a program for kids to work there in the summer, graduate from high school and continue to work there while attending Northland. DigiKey then pays off some of their college loans. We need more programs like that."
Carlson added, "I've talked to a couple kids who are embarrassed that all they're doing after graduation is working instead of going to a four-year college. They're embarrassed and they shouldn't be. They should be proud to go to work."