House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn., spoke at MGK, a chemical manufacturer based out of Chaska, on May 19 to address the National Association of Manufacturers policy agenda “Competing to Win.”

NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons, MGK President Steve Gullickson and President and CEO of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Doug Loon, as well as other leaders from local manufacturers, such as Winnebago and General Mills, were present at the roundtable discussion that focused on policy priorities in the manufacturing industry.

“We’re thrilled to be able to work closely with the Congressman on this plan, because they get it,” Timmons said. “They understand what makes business work, what makes manufacturing work, what makes America strong — which is investment, job creation and wage growth right here in the United States.”

“Competing to Win” focuses on the manufacturing industry’s growth solidifying “strategic alliances, solidifying support for Ukraine and working to bolster the power of commerce … to preserve, protect and expand democracy,” according to NAM’s website.

The discussion focused on research and development tax credits, Environmental Protection Agency regulations, the debt limit, immigration reform and how bipartisan manufacturing issues can be.

“We got to start going back together in terms of getting things done,” Emmer said. “That being said, nobody make any mistake, my job is to get 218 Republicans. But I think the more that we do that, and the more we respect our colleagues, the more you’ll see people with aligned beliefs working together.”

NAM reached out to MGK, a longtime member of their organization, to host the roundtable discussion with Emmer promoting the policy agenda. Part of this agenda is the American Innovation and R&D Competitiveness Act, which Emmer is in support of, according to a NAM press release.

“[Emmer’s] got, I would say, a true interest in helping business, particularly manufacturing and agriculture, be as successful as possible in Minnesota, so I can’t argue with that,” Gullickson said.

One of the points of the policy agenda addresses is the EPA’s proposed reconsideration of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Particulate Matter from January 2023 through the Clean Air Act.

“The EPA’s announcement ... [about reconsidering] the PM 2.5 standard will only further weaken an already slowing economy,” Timmons said, according to the NAM website. “Let manufacturers do what they do best: innovate and deploy modern technologies to protect the environment, while creating jobs and strengthening the economy.”

Emmer and other NAM members, such as MGK, also stand against this proposed change in regulation.

“Because we know we’re going to be regulated, our wish is that the regulations are clear and enforced equally … I don’t mind a hard set of rules, just make a level playing field. And I don’t believe the playing field is level,” Gullickson said.

Mental health

Emmer also met May 19 with a group of mental health professionals from around the state for a roundtable discussion at Victoria City Hall.

The topic of the day was declining youth mental health, and while each professional brought their own perspective and insight, the resounding message was clear: in its current state, the mental healthcare system is disjointed and dysfunctional.

As youth mental health has declined, members of the group noted that the severity of individual cases has also increased, placing additional strain on healthcare workers.

“Often what’s missing is a conversation around workforce,” said Kevin Doyle, president of Hazelden Betty Ford’s graduate school. “Who’s going to do this work? How can we nurture this workforce?”

“Our experience is that our workforce is overwhelmed,” said Dr. Ryan Engdahl, senior director for mental health at CentraCare. “Certainly, the pandemic didn’t help that, but the rates that we saw in kids reporting mental health issues, but that’s been a consistent pattern for over a decade.”

“Kids who are at risk are struggling more than they used to,” added Jeremiah Gardner, director of communications and public affairs at Hazelden Betty Ford. “So it’s hard on our workforce, you know, it’s a harder job to help folks that are really struggling.”

The group also discussed the ongoing issue of stigma and how to help adults not only understand the signs and symptoms of mental illness, but how to encourage open dialogue with the youth in their lives.

Dr. Marna Canterbury, senior director for community health at Health Partners, noted that in her work with youth advocates, “They’ve really challenged us to say, ‘How can we equip adults to show up better for kids? To be more knowledgeable?’”

Emmer, wrapping up the session, said: “People can talk about roads and bridges, people can talk about technology. If you come back to it, it’s all related to this. Our successes, our failures, our almost-successes, are all related to how people generally are relating to themselves and one another in their community.”