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The Briefcase

Westrom earns business award

Sen. Torrey Westrom's support for tax breaks for farms and small businesses helped garner him the "Guardian of Small Business" award from the National Federation of Independent Business Minnesota.

At 10,000 members statewide, the group says it is Minnesota's largest small-business group. It gave the Elbow Lake Republican a 100 percent rating for his votes during the Minnesota Legislature's 2017-2018 sessions.

Westrom's support helped reduce property taxes for small businesses, estate taxes for farms and health insurance premiums for those on the individual market. He also supported an unsuccessful attempt to prevent local units of government from enacting minimum wages higher than the state's.

"Senator Westrom is a real friend of small business," the group's director, Mike Hickey, said in a news release.

In the release, Westrom said small businesses employ about half the state's private workforce.

"That's one reason why I've pushed hard for more rural broadband assistance to deploy more high-speed internet in our rural communities," he said. "I am proud of my record and look forward to keeping our job creation climate in Minnesota strong this legislative session."

Wake Up at Ollie's

Ollie's Service will host the Friday, Feb. 15, Wake Up Alexandria event at 1213 Broadway St. The hour-long social networking events are organized by the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce and are held at 7:30 a.m. on the first and third Fridays of every month. A different chamber member hosts each event.

Wake Up Alexandria is open to anyone in exchange for a "buck and a business card." All dollars collected go to a local non-profit. At the Feb. 15 event, that nonprofit is ROAR Ed, the educational division of Runestone Off-road ATV Riders, which provides training and certification opportunities for youth and cooperates with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to maintain and build a youth skills training course and public trails.

Donation helps school

New Testament School in Alexandria received a $250 gift card from the local H&R Block franchise in January to help buy school supplies. Giving money to local schools is a nationwide focus for the company. The card was presented to Gidget Sprouls, school principal.

Manufacturers expect stable 2019

Minnesota manufacturers reported mostly unchanged or improved conditions during 2018 and expect the same for 2019, according to an annual joint survey by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development and the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

The survey found that respondents were split about 2019 forecasts, with 47 percent believing that production would increase and an equal percentage expecting it to remain the same.

Among other findings:

• 94 percent expect their employment to remain stable or go up.

• 87 percent expect their equipment investments to go up or stay the same.

• 94 percent of respondents anticipate growth in production or for production to stay the same.

• 95 percent expect prices to go up or stay the same.

• 70 percent expect inflation to increase.

When asked about the effect of the trade war, 86 percent reported no effect on employment, 80 percent reported no effect on investment and 77 percent reported no effect on capital expenditure. However, 55 percent reported a negative effect for cost to consumers.