The Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism celebrated the new year with their annual dinner, 2020 Vision, January 17 at the Owatonna Country Club. Chamber president Brad Meier's opening comments included, "The economic development success of 2019 will bring exciting things in 2020 and beyond."

In the chamber's January/February 2020 edition of Business Brief, big happenings in 2019 made the year "one for the record books." Three companies announced location plans for Owatonna. Three others started expansion projects. The bond referendum for a new Owatonna High School passed. Highway 14 expansion began. New apartment buildings were opened.

Meier also highlighted the January publication of the Twin Cities Business Magazine and a positive feature they put together about Owatonna's business growth.

Christian Lawrence of Rise Modular joined Meier on stage. His business will make apartment and hotel units from the former Chart Building in Owatonna. Work is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2020 with up to 90 employees needed at full production.

Kaye Fransen was presented with the 2019 Starman Ambassador of the Year Award. The namesake of the honor Wayne Starman made the presentation. Nick Lewis will continue to chair the Ambassadors.

Outgoing members of the board include Graham Frie (Mayo Clinic Health System), Brian Speas (Fareway Meat and Grocery), Pat McDermott (JC Press), and Kim Schaufenbuel (United Way of Steele County). Four new members of the chamber's board of directors are Doug Betti (Viracon), Deb Gillard (RE/MAX Venture Real Estate), Mike Herman (Driessen Water, Inc.), and Scott Mohs (Mohs Contracting, Inc.).Nate Dotson will chair the board, succeeding Andrew Cowell (Profinium).

Meier said, "Workforce, developing talent will continue to be a significant challenge for our member businesses in 2020 and beyond. In May, Workforce coordinator Anisha Zak hosted the first signing day for high school students that are entering the workforce directly from high school. Further, 60% of students that worked with Anisha are working in a local business as of this past summer."

"Made in Owatonna Days continue to provide students with a better understanding of the career opportunities right here in Owatonna."

Regarding the passing of the bond for a new high school, Meier said, "Career Pathways will be fully implemented allowing students the opportunity to receive job specific training so they are prepared to enter the workforce directly from high school." He thanked Superintendent Jeff Elstad as a "tireless advocate for students" and recognized businesses Federated Insurance, Wenger, Viracon, and Mayo Clinic Health System for their donations to the new high school project.

Special guests at the chamber dinner included state senator John Jasinski, state representative John Petersburg, Owatonna mayor Tom Kuntz, Steele County commissioner Greg Krueger, and city administrator Kris Busse.

CliftonLarsonAllen was the headline sponsor for the chamber dinner.