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Park Rapids stop one on final leg of Secretary of State 87-county tour

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon talks about what his office is working on during a roundtable discussion held Wednesday at the Hubbard County Courthouse. Simon was on the final leg of his 87-county tour which included stops in Park Rapids and Menahga. (Kevin Cederstrom / Enterprise)

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon made a stop in Park Rapids on the second to last day of his statewide, 87-county tour Wednesday.  Simon met with Park Rapids area community leaders for a 45-minute discussion on things his office is doing to help small business owners and entrepreneurs.  Simon is 10 months into his elected term as secretary of state and the meetings were intended to provide an opportunity for feedback and talk about the work his office is doing to streamline services.  

“One of my top priorities is making it as easy as possible for Minnesotans to set up and run their businesses,” he said.  “In Park Rapids and Menahga, I met with a diverse group of community and business leaders and had a great discussion about how my office can better serve the needs of their communities.”  For example, Simon said he heard directly from business leaders about the importance of tracking current economic data, such as employee growth from year to year.  

The secretary of state’s office provides business services and every business in the state has to file something with the office, both initially and ongoing. Simon wants to use that opportunity and encourage businesses to voluntarily provide additional information the general public can access through the office’s website.  This could prove useful for businesses, organizations and individuals in community economic development.   

“I like the idea,” said Wayne Nelson of Northview Bank in Park Rapids. “From a banking standpoint if I’m looking at demographics and what is coming to town, or how do I develop a product, this would be a great place to gather information.”  

Additional business information provided through the Secretary of State website could be beneficial in looking at communities and regions to determine, for example, manufacturing or retail sector, and for that what level wage jobs are there going to be.  During Wednesday’s discussion with the Park Rapids group, Simon indicated some ways he felt his office could be helpful to businesses and nonprofits. Those included his office doing what it is supposed to be doing under law competently and well, making sure the system is efficient.  

“I’ve never met a business owner who likes to spend their time on government paperwork,” he said.  Also, streamlining some of the procedures in-house without going to the legislature and begging for a law change is another way his office is helpful. Also, adding value to businesses. One way his office is doing that is through quarterly economic reports by region, partnered with St. Cloud State University.  

“My goal is to be a secretary of state for all Minnesotans,” Simon said. “That means listening. I received some great insight from small businesses in Park Rapids and Menahga, and look forward to hearing more from them when I hit the road again in 2016 to all 87 counties.”  When Simon first took office in January as Minnesota Secretary of State, he said the work of his office doesn’t happen at a desk in St. Paul.  “Now, after traveling to all 87 counties in Minnesota, it’s clear to me not only that the work of my office takes place in every corner of this state but that the best ideas come from there, too.