Sen. Amy Klobuchar
It's no secret that our workforce is one of our state's greatest assets. Minnesota is home to some of the best educated, hardest working people in the country. We have the numbers to back that up. As of October, the unemployment rate here was just 3.3 percent, well below the national average. When U.S. News named Minnesota the third best state to live in earlier this year, they cited our outstanding labor force participation. And last year employment in Minnesota grew at a faster rate than in any of our neighboring states.
Last week I attended the Change-of-Command Ceremony where we honored retired Lt. Gen. Richard Nash for his decades of service and saw him pass the leadership torch to Maj. Gen. Jon A. Jensen, who was sworn in as the new adjutant general of Minnesota's National Guard. As Lt. Gen. Nash said earlier this year, "Our Minnesota National Guard and the entire state has contributed greatly in a period of history that will be looked back upon as a remarkably important time." He continued, "we were always ready, always there."
After Peggy Hiestand-Harri's mom retired, she planned to spend her time like a lot of Minnesotans do—with her kids and grandkids. And also like a lot of Minnesotans in their golden years, she got by on a fixed income.
In Minnesota, we understand the importance of a free press. It's hard to forget in our state — Minnesotans are among the most engaged citizens in the country. Last year we again ranked first in the nation in voter turnout. Minnesotans volunteer at the second highest rate in the country. And we usually look to our local newspapers as the first stop for the information we need. In my house growing up, it was impossible to forget the importance of a free press. My dad was a journalist.
Grilling hot dogs and corn on the cob, marching in parades, staying up late to watch fireworks light up the night sky — the Fourth of July always reminds us how united we are. We are united in independence. We are united in freedom. We are united in patriotism, our unwavering love of this nation and the people in it. That's something to celebrate, even if sometimes it's easy to forget — with all the partisanship and division we see in this nation we love.
All across our state, families gather each Memorial Day to remember those members of our military we've lost. It's a time to reflect on how we honor these fallen heroes and how to best treat those heroes still with us. This year marks the 100th Anniversary of our nation entering World War I. It was a war that thousands of Minnesotans had a part in—Minnesotans like Sgt. Louis Cukela.
Wyoming Machine is making a big difference in Stacy. The company recently brought home the National Association of Workforce Boards' business leadership award for their work developing the local workforce and economy. In Duluth, thanks to partnerships with local employers, 70 students are graduating Lake Superior College every year with the skills needed to fill high-wage, high-growth jobs around the region.
Greg Doeden joined the Moorhead Fire Department in 1983 because he wanted to help people. Thirty-four years later, he's still working—day and night—to keep the city safe. Across the state, firefighters like Greg demonstrate heroism every day. They endure physically and mentally grueling conditions. They have to be able to lift 175 pounds while wearing a full suit of protective gear. They climb ladders and break through doors, windows, and walls all while people's lives literally depend on them.
Back in 2009, I had the opportunity to attend the grand opening of Ever Cat's biodiesel plant in Isanti. The company, started by a feed-supplement supplier for farmers, uses innovative technology to create biodiesel from waste. And every year since its opening, that plant has produced approximately three million gallons of diesel fuel to help fuel our cars, trucks, and ships. And it's employed more than two dozen people to do it.
All across our state, Minnesotans are gathering with family and friends to celebrate the Fourth of July. There will be picnics, parades, and, of course, lots of fireworks. It's good fun, and it's for a great reason—to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence and to give thanks that American patriots were brave enough to risk everything in order to found a new nation.