Whether she was talking to students or local business leaders, one theme emerged Friday during U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum’s trip through Woodbury.
People are still concerned about the economy.
“That came across loud and clear,” said McCollum, who was in Stillwater on Thursday.
On Friday, McCollum, a Democrat from St. Paul who now represents Woodbury in the newly redrawn 4th Congressional District, visited Woodbury High School, Aveka, Inc., and the Sheraton Hotel, where she met with members of the Woodbury Chamber of Commerce.
Business owners she talked to say they feel the economy is rebounding, “but it’s still very fragile,” McCollum said.
Many of them are “holding their breath” to see what lawmakers to at the federal level, she said.
Woodbury High School
The congresswoman said gun safety came up during her visit with students at Woodbury High School, but many of them also asked about their future career opportunities and how the federal government can ensure jobs and affordable higher education are available.
“They know it’s not free,” McCollum said.
At Aveka and in her talk with Chamber of Commerce officials, McCollum said transit was a major topic, especially considering the growth projected in Woodbury in the coming years.
Specifically, McCollum said she has been tracking the progress of the Gateway Corridor, a stretch of Interstate 94 from downtown St. Paul to Wisconsin where officials are planning future mass transit options.
With bus rapid transit the leading alternative at this point, McCollum said it needs to be done “the right way.”
“Not just pushing a bus on the shoulder of the road,” she said.
Stakeholders must look years down the road and ensure Minnesota remains competitive with other major cities, most of which have embraced rail or subways, she said.
“They’ll all doing it and we’re not,” McCollum said.
Still, asked if she would prefer to see light rail rather than buses along the interstate, she said, “I don’t get to make all the decisions.”
At Aveka—a Woodbury company that researches, develops, manufactures and distributes particle products and technologies—McCollum said she heard many of the same concerns about transportation, but also a need for skill labor, whether that be machinists or engineers.
The larger issue, she said, is determining the government’s role making education opportunities available for both young people and experienced workers. Listening to the needs of the business community is key, McCollum said.
McCollum has a new set of constituents in the new 4th District, which now includes St. Paul and its northern suburbs, along with the middle section of Washington County—from the northern edges of Stillwater to the southern borders of Woodbury and Afton.
She said she grew up in South St. Paul and has family in the east metro.
“I do have a suburban perspective on things,” McCollum said.
While she noted St. Paul’s major businesses and universities, calling it the “crown jewel,” McCollum said she plans to continue meeting with residents and officials within her new boundaries.
McCollum said area cities have also offered up space at their respective city halls as she continues to meet with people.
“In order for the east metro to do well, we need to do well together,” she said.