MARSHALL - U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar made a stop in Marshall Wednesday during her Connecting Minnesota tour focused on improving workforce development and expanding access to broadband in rural areas. City leaders met with Klobuchar at the Southwest Minnesota Regional Airport to discuss the region's infrastructure needs.
"(It's) about economic issues but mostly about how we give rural communities the tools so people can stay and have jobs," Klobuchar said of her Connecting Minnesota tour.
"That means broadband, which is a major problem in some communities and outside of towns," Klobuchar said. "It also means things like air service here, and it also of course means having our workers."
On Tuesday, Klobuchar stopped in Willmar to talk about her broadband initiative and visited farms near Benson, Hancock, Wheaton, Beardsley and Madison.
The senator made stops Wednesday morning at Montevideo's Chandler Industries and Canby's Minnesota West Community and Technical College campus. She wrapped up her tour with a broadband meeting in Redwood Falls Wednesday afternoon.
Along with promoting her efforts to expand broadband access in rural areas. Klobuchar also touted the Senate's recently passed transportation bill that will guarantee infrastructure funding for the next six years after it passes the House.
"It's a six-year bill with three years already paid for," Klobuchar said. "It's so much better than what we were doing," she added, referring to the months long extensions that gave cities and counties uncertainty in funding for their roads.
Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes said the transportation bill will bring the funding Marshall has been looking for to upgrade and expand the region's dominant transportation corridors.
"The infrastructure bill opportunity for Marshall is the airport and the inter-regional bi-way, Highway 23," Byrnes said. "The ultimate goal of upgrading Highway 23 is both for safety as well as to four-lane. And the opportunity for continued expansion of the airport to serve the business and industrial needs is important not only to Marshall, but to the region."
City leaders also asked Klobuchar to look into regulations regarding the types of industrial businesses that could be built on airport property. Currently, Marshall's Airpark East industrial development can only house aviation-specific companies. But city planners want companies that could benefit from their close proximity to the airport to also be allowed to build in the new industrial park, not just aviation-related companies.
Marshall's Ryan Field is one of the 10 busiest airports in the state and facilitates roughly 60 arrivals and departures every day, Byrnes said. The airport's impact on area business and commerce is invaluable, according to Byrnes.
"The reality is, without this transportation connection, some of the major industries (here) would not be able to operate as they do today in Marshall," he said.
Other issues Klobuchar reported hearing about in rural Minnesota is a lack of housing and childcare. Along with broadband access,. Klobuchar said that all of these needs must be met to keep rural Minnesota communities viable.
"Housing and childcare came up in three or four different communities," Klobuchar said. "Just because the economy is strong, and that's a great thing, we have to find ways to respond to that."
Klobuchar said she could continue to advocate for federal housing funding, as well as fight off groups that want to cut that funding.
"There is not enough housing and there is not enough child care and there is not enough workers and we want to keep businesses here," Klobuchar said. "That means upping our game for broadband and every amenity you can find so people who grew up here want to stay here and people want to move here."