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Local manufacturers oppose Peterson on energy, support him on healthcare issues

Echo Press staff photo U.S. Representative Collin Peterson talked to area manufacturers in Alexandria earlier this summer at an Enterprise Minnesota event. Executives representing nearly 40 companies in the area attended the event.

Twenty-eight manufacturing executives in Minnesota's 7th Congressional District recently sent Congressman Collin Peterson a letter outlining their opposition to several current policy issues before the U.S. House of Representatives, including health care reform, cap and trade, and "card check" legislation.

The letter follows a face-to-face discussion Peterson had in August at Douglas Machine in Alexandria with nearly 40 manufacturers, representing companies with more than 3,000 workers throughout the area.

Alexandria area firms that signed the letter included Alexandria Extrusion, Douglas Machine, Carlos Creek Winery, ITW Heartland, Lind-Rite Precision, IRD Glass, Alexandria Light and Power and Collins Cabinets.

The manufacturers are members of Enterprise Minnesota CEO Peer Councils, which are groups of business leaders in the manufacturing industry.

Located throughout the state, these small groups gather monthly to discuss issues that affect their companies and offer each other input and advice on how to meet challenges and improve business.

In their letter to Peterson, the manufacturing representatives said the cap and trade legislation that Peterson signed is "not a fair approach for small businesses and it does not foster a competitive platform for U.S. businesses in a global economy."

The manufacturers said that too many areas have been excluded from cap and trade. "It also begs the question whether this legislation is just a means of rewarding certain selected industries and sectors at the expense of others," the letter stated.

The group questioned whether there is proof that reducing carbon dioxide emissions would impact global temperatures.

The group also wondered why other forms of clean, abundant and proven energy aren't being pursued.

The manufacturers also opposed Peterson's support for the Employee Free Choice Act or "card check" legislation, which would enable employees to more easily form labor unions.

The peer council's letter noted that there are already laws in place that would eliminate the need for this legislation and added that unions already receive a "disparate level of rights" compared to other businesses.

On the healthcare issue, the council agreed with Peterson that only certain aspects of the system need to be fixed rather than a complete overhaul.

The manufacturers said the federal government should examine how to better use current tools for healthcare reform, such as Health Savings Accounts as a way to manage costs.

"Your [Peterson's] proposal to only 'fix what is broken' in the current system is a measured, appropriate response to the issue and we support your position," the peer council stated in its letter.

Instead of healthcare, the government should address the national debt, which is $12 trillion and growing, the manufacturers said.

To sum up, the group said, the three initiatives Peterson talked about - cap and trade, card check and healthcare reform - if passed, would "increase the burden on industry and manufacturing," resulting in a loss of global competitiveness.

"These issues disrupt a business owner's decision-making ability about what type of company they will lead and derail their ability to create viable benefit packages to attract and retain good employees," the letter stated.

Bob Kill, president and CEO of Enterprise Minnesota, said that the CEO Peer Council offers a valuable forum for the industry to exchange ideas and present their opinions on current issues.

"There's a misguided notion that somehow it's not possible to provide or receive valuable input on issues, even when those issues have the potential to affect your business significantly," Kill said. "Our goal is to facilitate a conversation and provide a nexus for information and thought in Minnesota's manufacturing industry."