Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) braved one of the coldest days of this year Sunday, and made her way to the Le Sueur Municipal Airport for the last stop of her Energizing Minnesota tour.
The tour was intended to highlight the senator’s efforts to help rural Minnesota communities to “make critical upgrades in energy efficiency.” It included stops in Albert Lea, Owatonna, Windom and Mankato, ending in Le Sueur. The city of Le Sueur made significant investments into the local airport over the last three years, using federal funding for safety improvements.
“It’s important to have a strong rural economy,” Klobuchar said. “This idea you need an airport like this, so people can’t say ‘why don’t you just do it out of the metro?’”
City Administrator Jenelle Teppen, who, along with Mayor Bob Broeder, was there to meet Klobuchar Sunday, said the federal dollars, which paid for 90 percent of the improvements (5 percent state and 5 percent city) were used to buy land for expansion and remove obstructions to ensure the safety of the landing strip to meet Federal Aviation Administration standards. The runway was also crack-filled and sealcoated.
The airport plays host to about 2,500 landing and take-offs annually. It is home to Scott’s Helicopter, which primarily deals in agribusiness. It is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and also provides a runway for private planes and news helicopters. Joe Sailer, a representative of Scott’s Helicopter, talked about the importance of the airport.
“It’s definitely a big part of our business,” he said. “This is where we do maintenance, management, landings.”
Klobuchar spent a lot of the time simply asking questions and listening to the city leaders. They discussed a number of topics, including affordable housing, agriculture and industry, and even the population of Le Sueur. Before ending the approximately 40-minute discussion, the senator answered why she was making the rounds in rural southern Minnesota.
“I’ve always believed kids that grow up in rural Minnesota should be able to live in rural Minnesota,” she said. “That means access to jobs, good roads, housing, Internet. Different parts of our state have different strengths. We don’t want everyone in one location.”