By Heather J. Carlson

The Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

RED WING — Standing next to the world's largest boot with a tag stating "Made in the U.S.A.," Sen. Amy Klobuchar on Friday said more needs to be done to help companies committed to keeping jobs in America.

The senior Minnesota senator said that means getting rid of excess regulation and red tape that makes it harder for American companies to compete.

"We are competing against companies in other countries and they have our same safety regulations, but they are doing things faster or they are doing things differently, and that is what we need to do as a country," said Klobuchar, a Democrat.

Klobuchar made the comments at the Red Wing Shoes Store in downtown Red Wing as part of a statewide "Made in America" tour. Earlier in the day she visited Peerless Chain in Winona and discussed tourism in Winona.

Red Wing Shoes employs 2,200 workers in the United States has five manufacturing plants nationwide. The company has increased its employment in its factories by 16 percent over the last two years. Red Wing Shoes President Dave Murphy credits the company's success to its commitment to quality and service. Red Wing Shoes has also ramped up exports to Asia and created a new fashion shoe line. The company has also branched out and started selling industrial garments along with shoes.

During her visit, Klobuchar met with Murphy and UFCW Local 527 President Roger Spindler to talk about things that can be done to help American companies be more competitive. Murphy said he told the senator that excessive regulations is a major issue. For instance, homeland security regulations require the company keep the doors to its plants closed during the summer as a safety precaution.

"So we end up spending a bunch of money on air conditioning and that makes it hard to be competitive," Murphy said.

The company president and union president agree that rising health care costs and pension restrictions are also major issues. Murphy said the company must follow onerous regulations for its pension plan, which requires pouring millions of dollars into the program. As a result, the pension plan has been frozen for eight years with no accrual of benefits.

Klobuchar said she is focusing on three strategies for helping American companies. The first centers on making sure future workers are getting the education they need to do the jobs that are available. She is co-sponsoring a bill to promote science, math, engineering and technology education for high school students. She said it is also critical students be trained in specific skills that are in demand like welding and tool and die making.

The senator said she also supports making it easier for business to export their product overseas. She also wants to try and get rid of cumbersome regulation. Klobuchar touted Red Wing Shoes as a company that is doing things right.

"This is just an amazing success story during incredibly difficult economic ties," she said. "Red Wing Shoes has hung in there and in fact they are expanding."