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Reader Opinion: Investing in the future

Few public buildings demonstrate community pride like schools. On April 10, voters approved a $145.7 million bond referendum to significantly improve the quality of educational facilities throughout the Brainerd Public School District over the ne...

Few public buildings demonstrate community pride like schools. On April 10, voters approved a $145.7 million bond referendum to significantly improve the quality of educational facilities throughout the Brainerd Public School District over the next four years. With enrollment expected to increase by 7 percent by 2025, this much-needed investment couldn't have come at a better time.

But we won't have to wait four years for this improvement to start paying off. In fact, we'll start to see the benefits once the first shovel breaks ground. In order to build the quality facilities for state-of-the-art education, we need to attract "high road" construction companies that employ a highly trained and skilled workforce. The alternative is to settle for cut-rate contractors who don't make the same investments in their workers. To ensure this construction is done right the first time, our school board should choose to put prevailing wage requirement on these projects. A public project is a public investment-from footings to roof.

A recent study of Minnesota's Prevailing Wage Act shows it boosts the state's economy by almost a billion dollars every year, creates 7,200 jobs and increases local hiring by 10 percent; yet it has no significant effect on the overall cost of publicly funded construction projects. In other words, prevailing wage is a cost-neutral policy that maintains high standards on publicly funded construction and benefits our communities in a multitude of ways.

Our public tax dollars should maximize the community benefit. Brainerd Public Schools recognizes that we must invest in order to secure the future, and we should demand the same commitment for quality construction. Hands-on training and safety standards allow development of an efficient, productive workforce and prevailing wage ensure that publicly funded construction provides good jobs that support families and communities.

Vance Anderson

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President, Brainerd Building & Construction Trades Council

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