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Sen. Klobuchar visits Park Rapids on energy, jobs tour

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar's tour this week of state Minnesota energy-efficient projects included Lamb Weston/RDO Frozen in Park Rapids.

She's using the tour to highlight the job creation potential of energy efficiency and homegrown energy, especially with small businesses.

Klobuchar chose to tour the Park Rapids potato plant for a few reasons.

"Since they're such a major employer in the area, we thank them for what they're doing in the challenging economy and the fact that they're employing hundreds of people and also, to learn more about their process and business," she said. "They are working on some great energy efficiency projects too."

Klobuchar toured the plant and learned about the way some of the output is converted into energy to heat the facility, she said.

"We are really looking at everything we can do to encourage even more business there," Klobuchar said. "I was really impressed by the energy efficiency work being done."

While she was in Park Rapids, Klobuchar also toured Main Avenue to see how the $730,500 included in the FY2010 Omnibus Appropriations bill would be used.

The Main Avenue street and utility reconstruction project involves the rebuilding of Main Avenue and upgrading underground infrastructure utilities beneath the street. Construction will begin this spring.

Her stop in Park Rapids was part of a larger tour across Minnesota focusing on jobs and energy.

"I really think we need to refocus the Washington agenda on how to create more jobs in our economy and how to do that in a way that works for our state," she said. "Minnesota has given the world everything from the Post-It notes to the pacemaker and we've always been ahead of our time. And in the rural areas that has meant a lot of focus on energy creation and tourism as well."

Klobuchar said she thinks the economy has gotten away from making products and needs to refocus.

"We need to change so we're not just making money off of money," she said. "So we are actually making things and exporting things across the world that are made in America."

Klobuchar's statewide tour concluded with an Energy Efficiency and Innovation Summit Friday at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management in Minneapolis. The summit brought together Minnesota policymakers and businesses. "Our best opportunities for creating jobs and growing our economy over the long term will be through innovation and the development of clean energy technologies," Klobuchar said. "This includes not only technologies to produce energy like wind, solar, biofuels and nuclear. It also includes technologies to save energy through greater efficiency with our vehicles, our homes, our buildings and our factories. The bottom line is that saving energy means saving money."

Klobuchar said that a recent national economic analysis showed that Minnesota's annual job growth during the past decade was less than 2 percent. But jobs related to the new energy economy grew by nearly 12 percent each year.

"In the current economic downturn, clean energy industries have been one of the few sectors that's actually creating rather than cutting jobs," she said. "Small businesses are the source of much of this innovation and job creation, and we need to encourage more of it."

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
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