January 21, 2019
Last week MnRA's Board of Directors celebrated the leadership of: Outgoing Board Chair Lonnie McQuirter , 36 Lyn Refuel Station (left); Incoming Board Chair Emily McGann , CVS Health; and departing Board Member Steve Rush , Rush Law & Advocacy, PLLC. Rush served the Board with distinction for 18 years, including leadership positions of chair, secretary and interim president, among many others.
Duluth Creates Position To Launch, Enforce Controversial Time-Off Policy
From the Duluth News Tribune, Peter Passi, January 16, 2019

Duluth is looking to hire a compliance officer to oversee a new highly debated employment policy that's slated to take effect on Jan. 1, 2020, despite continued misgivings in parts of the local business community.

On Monday, the Duluth City Council authorized the creation of the new position, and City Clerk Chelsea Helmer said she hopes to bring someone aboard by April — providing nine months of lead time before Duluth's new earned-sick-and-safe-time rules kick in.

Mayor Emily Larson said it only made sense to budget for the new position this year. The job is expected to pay between $62,232 and $79,920 per year, plus benefits.

"It was a pretty simple decision, because this is a significant undertaking. It was an issue that really required a lot of discussion, a lot of debate, a lot of discernment, and it's time to implement it and get it right," she said.

But Rob Stenberg, president of Duluth BizPAC, a recently formed business-oriented political action committee, predicts the cost of the new compliance officer position is just the beginning of the bill the city will foot for adopting an ordinance that will require local employers with five or more employees to provide them with paid time off that can be used to deal with an illness or a family emergency.

"I don't even think the City Council or the mayor fully understand what the costs are for this — not only from a monetary standpoint for the salary and benefits of this one position, which I don't think is going to be enough to cover what needs to be done in order to educate all the businesses in town," Stenberg said.

However, At Large Duluth City Councilor Zack Filipovich believes the city is well positioned to enact the new policy in 2020 and said: "I think the long lead time, the very public discussion and the open process that we had with the task force really helped educate folks. At some points that process was contentious, but that's to be expected with an issue like this. I think we ended up in a good place."

Stenberg disagreed, saying, "Most of the businesses in town and most of the employees of those businesses have no idea how earned sick and safe time is going to affect them. So, it's going to be very, very difficult."
Study: More Shoppers Want Free Shipping
From the National Retail Federation, January 15, 2019

Consumers increasingly expect free delivery of items they buy online and are also embracing new options like picking up their online purchases at a local store, according to the latest issue of the quarterly Consumer View report released today by the National Retail Federation.

“Consumers want free delivery, and they’re willing to meet retailers halfway to get it,” NRF Vice President for Research Development and Industry Analysis Mark Mathews said. “If we can get their purchase to the store, they’ll come pick it up if that’s what it takes to avoid a delivery charge. And once they’re in the store, they are very open to seeing what else the retailer has to offer. This is part of the growing evidence that consumers see retail as retail regardless of how they make their purchases and get them.”

“As the realms of physical and digital shopping converge, retailers are offering more choices than ever in terms of how and when shoppers receive their purchases,” the report said. “And consumers are embracing these new fulfillment options – as long as they’re free.”

The report found that 75 percent of consumers surveyed expect delivery to be free even on orders under $50, up from 68 percent a year ago.

Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) demand free shipping the most, with 88 percent expecting it. That compares with 77 percent for Generation X (1965-1980), 61 percent for millennials (1981-1994) and 76 percent for Generation Z (1995 and later).

Many consumers now consider shipping costs even before getting to the checkout page, with 65 percent saying they look up free-shipping thresholds before adding items to their online shopping carts. Consumers also want their products fast, with 39 percent expecting two-day shipping to be free, and 29 percent have backed out of a purchase because two-day shipping wasn’t free.
Ban On Handling Cellphone While Driving Gains Momentum In Minnesota
From the Pioneer Press, David Orrick, January 14, 2019

Handling your cellphone while driving is under threat in Minnesota. On Monday, a bipartisan coalition of senior lawmakers and Gov. Tim Walz expressed various levels of support for a plan to outlaw using any sort of electronic device in anything but “hands-free” or “one-touch” mode.

Tapping away at your phone to text while driving is already illegal in Minnesota, but the proposed new law would make it illegal to handle a phone in almost any way, including dialing a number. Voice commands for all sorts of smartphone features would be allowed, as would functions that could be accessed by touching buttons or screens in your car, such as when the phone is paired via Bluetooth technology to car sound systems.

RELATED: The latest coverage from the Pioneer Press political team.

“The goal is to get the phone out of your hands,” said Minnesota State Patrol Col. Matt Langer, who has said that current laws against distracted driving aren’t strong enough to enforce consistently enough to change behavior.

Minnesota would join 16 states and the District of Columbia to require hands-free driving, which is also the law in Ontario.
Liquor: Coming Soon To A Minneapolis Neighborhood Restaurant Near You
From the Star Tribune, Andy Mannix, January 14, 2019

Liquor: Coming soon to a Minneapolis neighborhood restaurant near you

Last year, Minneapolis residents voted with a 72 percent majority to ditch the spacing requirement, which meant restaurants were only eligible to serve liquor if they were located within a 7-acre area of commercially zoned businesses.

If all goes as planned, Ann Carlson-Yunga will finally be able to say yes to customers thirsting for margaritas with their slow-roasted pork dinners.

Carlson-Yunga, who co-owns La Mesa, a Latin-inspired restaurant in Minneapolis’ Bryn Mawr neighborhood, is among the first 10 restaurateurs who have applied for liquor licenses since voters changed the city’s charter in November. With another 60 establishments eligible, Minneapolis officials expect more applications to flow in when many licenses come up for renewal in a few months.

If the city approves her application, Carlson-Yunga doesn’t expect her business to be transformed. She hopes adding a cocktail menu will encourage diners to stick around longer — instead of having to go elsewhere for a nightcap.

“Historically, we would have to explain to them why we weren’t able to apply” for a liquor license, she said. “When people found out that was an option, we got a lot of neighborhood support. Now that it’s passed, we have people looking forward to us being able to offer these additional things they’ve been looking for.”

Under the old rules, restaurants were only eligible to serve liquor if they were located within a 7-acre area of commercially zoned businesses. That limited neighborhood restaurants like La Mesa to beer and wine.

Last year, Minneapolis residents voted with a 72 percent majority to ditch the spacing requirement.
Retail Imports Level Off After Rush To Beat Tariffs
From the National Retail Federation, January 8, 2019

Imports at the nation’s major retail container ports have slowed down after a months-long rush to beat increased tariffs on goods from China, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“With the holiday season behind us, the immediate pressure to stock up on merchandise has passed but retailers remain concerned about tariffs and their impact on the nation’s economy,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “Retailers have also brought in much of their spring merchandise early to protect consumers against higher prices that will eventually come with tariffs. Our industry is hoping the talks currently under way will bring an end to this ill-advised trade war and result in a more appropriate way of responding to China’s trade abuses that won’t force American consumers, workers and businesses to pay the price.”

U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.81 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in November, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 2.5 percent year-over-year but down 11.4 percent from the record of 2.04 million TEU set in October. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

December was estimated at 1.79 million TEU, a 3.7 percent year-over-year increase. That would bring 2018 to a total of 21.6 million TEU, an increase of 5.3 percent over 2017’s record 20.5 million TEU.

January is forecast at 1.75 million TEU, down 0.9 percent from January 2018; February at 1.67 million TEU, also down 0.9 percent year-over-year; March at 1.55 million TEU, up 0.6 percent; April at 1.69 million TEU, up 3.7 percent, and May at 1.8 million TEU, down 1.3 percent. February and March are typically two of the slowest months of the year for imports, both because of the post-holiday drop in demand and because of Lunar New Year factory shutdowns in Asia.

“There have been record-high levels of imports over the past several months, primarily due to raised inventories ahead of expected tariff increases,” Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said. “But we are projecting declining volumes in the coming months and an overall weakness in imports for the first half of the year.”