Alexandria resident Shannon Berns was one of five spokespeople at a Zoom press conference Tuesday, May 4, where small business owners brought their concerns to the virtual table.

The purpose of the gathering was to urge Gov. Tim Walz and state legislators to prioritize policies and investments that align with the values of small business owners, drawing their attention before the state’s end-of-session negotiations.

Berns talked about how a lack of available and affordable childcare options affects workers and the small businesses that employ them. She used her firsthand experience as an example, as she has a hard time finding care providers for her child while she owns and operates Du Nord Consulting in Alexandria.

“Care is essential, but it’s grossly unaffordable,” Berns said. “I’ve seen countless small business clients and peers forced out of the workplace just to make ends meet.”

Even when individuals choose to self-employ and care for their own children, Berns said this balancing act isn’t sustainable. She pointed out that working multiple, uninterrupted hours, in a setting like this is nearly impossible.

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“When parents try to juggle childcare responsibilities and work, both suffer,” she said.

With this in mind, Berns encouraged state leaders to consider increasing the childcare reimbursement rate as well as providing additional funding for caregivers.

“An investment in the childcare infrastructure is an investment in small business,” Berns said.

She said that businesses would see benefits from these changes. Workers would begin showing up consistently, maintaining productivity and sustaining their roles in the long-term.

In addition to Berns’ point about childcare, Liz Harris, owner of a family child care business in Cottage Grove, stressed the significance of offering a paid family medical leave program. Rebecca Foley, owner of bookkeeping firm Phoenix Growth Systems, highlighted police accountability proposals to promote safety in communities.

Dan Marshall, owner of Mischief Toy Store in St. Paul, emphasized the importance of moving toward more affordable and predictable healthcare options for small businesses. Davis Senseman, owner of Davis Law Office in Minneapolis, discussed the need for additional revenue in the state system to fund what the other speakers brought up.

The event was hosted by Main Street Alliance, which is made up of small business owners who come together to influence public policies on the state and federal level. Berns also spoke at a February conference hosted by the Alliance, which focused on the state COVID-19 recovery budget.