Legislative Policy & Advocacy
An important part of any Chamber of Commerce is advocacy work that is done at the Capitol on behalf of local businesses, non-profits, and the community. The Cook County Chamber engages with Conservation Strategies, Inc., an independent lobbying firm, to represent the Chamber in St. Paul for each legislative session. It is by far our largest programmatic effort.
In essence, advocacy is actively supporting something important to you. Businesses in our community need someone to help speak collectively for them, and the Cook County Chamber is here to add value to our members and create a voice for our region and with our legislators. Because of the aforementioned commitment to work with an independent lobbying firm, we are positioned to advocate effectively on behalf of Cook County business.
Why is advocacy work important? Without a focused effort at the Capitol, critical funding and legislature would not make their way to Cook County. While there are broader initiatives that impact business in Cook County as well as greater Minnesota, unique legislative work like securing funding for the advancements of the Gitchi Gami State Trail would not be brought to the attention of legislators without the work of the Cook County Chamber and our active Chamber members..
A conservative estimate would be that our efforts have played a large and critical role in securing over millions of dollars in projects and programming for Cook County. The average is $1.7 million per legislative session for the Chamber’s direct investment of less than $35,000 annually. That is $42.5 gained for each $1 spent with total funding secured reaching over $13M.
Results of Advocacy Work at the Capitol:
Gitchi-Gami State Trail - $5.4 million for Cutface Creek to Grand M, MN. $1.5 million to match existing funds extending and connecting the existing trail from Ski Hill Road to the commercial center in Lutsen. Completion of this segment will also provide key connections to Tofte, Schroeder and Temperance River State Park..
Workforce Housing - $446,000 from Greater Minnesota Workforce Housing Program. We literally wrote the language that made Cook County eligible.
Lake Superior-Poplar River Pipeline Project - $1.1 million in additional funding as the project evolved. $450,000 for revamped system to anchor pipeline inlet in Lake Superior.
Britton Peak-Lutsen Mountains Connector Bike Trail - $350,000 in bonding.
Cook County Higher Ed - $230,000 in annual base budget increases ($1.1 million cumulative received to date). $40,000 in one-time funding for Higher Ed in 2017.
Grand Marais Public Water Access - $3.1 million in bonding and leveraged funding from elsewhere.
Chik-Wauk Phase II, Gunflint Trail Historical Society - $250,000 secured from Minnesota Historical Society
Short-term rental - New classification; we succeeded in getting passed by the Legislature in 2020 will mean at least $300,000 in savings for owners each year starting in 2023.
Renewal of 1% Lodging Tax - Successful in renewal of 1% lodging tax on top of the County’s 3% lodging tax. The 1% lodging tax supports local events and programming and was set to sunset November 2023. The financial support is approximately $800,000 annually.
North Shore Waste Transfer Station - A multi-phased project to improve the efficiency and environmental impact of Cook County’s waste processing facilities and operations is underway. Initial funding has been secured through IRRRB and local sources. An additional $2.5 million is needed from the state to complete the project.
Cook County Historical Society - Predesign, design, construct, furnish and equip the renovation of following historical Cook County sites:
Cook County History Museum - $362,000
Johnson Heritage Post Art Gallery - $75,000
Bally Blacksmith Shop - $94,000
St. Francis Xavier Church (Chippewa City Church) - $575,000
1930’s Nee-Gee Fishing Tug and Fish House - $394,000
Archival Storage Facility - $685,300
While the Chamber and lobbyists work hard to secure funding and programs to benefit Cook County businesses and residents, we are not always successful. It might take years for the legislative work to come to fruition.
How to get an initiative included:
The advocacy and policy initiatives of the Cook County Chamber of Commerce are determined by the board of directors on an annual basis. Initiatives that impact a larger portion of our community, receive top priority. Any chamber member is eligible to submit a topic for review.
To get an initiative in front of the board, reach out to Linda Jurek, Executive Director at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to the Chamber’s direct policy work with our lobbyist, the Chamber and Visit Cook County work closely with other statewide entities like MACVB, Explore Minnesota, Hospitality Minnesota, etc. on broader initiatives that impact the entire state.