Minnesota's businesses have legislative and policy priorities that vary greatly, but the state's major players have coalesced around a single message for the Biden administration and Congress.
For companies to thrive, vaccinations must be Job 1.
Progress on most other issues can't happen until leaders in Washington work together to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic, Minnesota company and trade group officials said.
That means placing COVID-19 vaccinations even ahead of fights over mask mandates and government-ordered shutdowns, they said.
"Getting the vaccine in people's arms means getting the virus under control and getting the economy stabilized," said Shaye Mandle, who leads the Medical Alley trade group representing hundreds of Minnesota companies. "Then we can talk about what things should look like in the future."
It also means setting aside philosophical differences, at least temporarily, the officials said. Biden's all-in approach to acquiring and distributing vaccines lines up with that approach, and many businesses publicly endorse it.
"Accelerating the distribution and administration of COVID-19 vaccines" is the top priority of the Minnesota Business Partnership, a group of the state's most powerful chief executives, the group said in a statement.
Target Corp. said it is looking for "a clear and consistent approach to the coronavirus vaccination rollout."
3M "considers COVID-19 our foremost priority," it said.
The company has shared a report with the Biden administration about "lessons learned from the pandemic and recommendations on how to develop public-private partnerships to solve future challenges."
U.S. Bank said in a statement it believes the Biden administration's "decision to focus on combating COVID-19 … is the right one."
Some trade groups also said congressional infighting over a COVID-19 relief bill must stop.
In a recent news conference, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce warned House and Senate members to focus on areas of agreement instead of conflicts.
Neil Bradley, the Chamber's chief policy officer, said masks thwart the spread of COVID-19 and people should wear them. He said opposition to mask mandates or government-ordered business shutdowns distract from the only real solution to those situations.
An example of such a distraction is playing out in Wisconsin, where Republicans in the state Legislature have paused on potentially voting out a statewide mask mandate by the Democratic governor.
"We're wasting a lot of time on politics right now," said political scientist Steven Schier, professor emeritus at Carleton College in Northfield. "One thing we know is that vaccinations are effective. The solution is obvious, but the agreement is not."
The result, said Medical Alley's Mandle, is a collective frustration among business leaders whose companies suffer and whose long-term goals must move to a back burner.
For example, Medical Alley members want the Biden administration to extend Medicare coverage for innovative technology.
The Minnesota Business Partnership wants "free and fair trade policies" that differ in some ways from the economic protectionism that guided the Trump administration's priorities. The partnership also wants investments in roads, bridges and rural broadband.
Rural broadband development is a goal shared across several economic sectors, including agriculture and health care.
Immigration reform attracts a broad base of business support with the business partnership calling for a "policy that reflects our nation's values and helps secure our future economic vitality," another break with Trump's hard-line approach.
The Minnesota Farm Bureau and the Minnesota Farmers Union said their members want to play a role in addressing free-trade agreements and climate change, especially as it pertains to ethanol and the renewable fuel standard.
Best Buy wants American retailers to remain competitive. But the company said it also is pushing "for advancement in key areas of immigration reform, sustainability and racial equity."
Those goals generally line up with Biden's current priorities. So does the medical device industry's desire to supplement its global supply chains to protect against gaps that caused shortages of critical parts and products as the pandemic took hold.
Disagreements will inevitably arise over business priorities between the lobbies for industry and the Biden administration. But all of it — as well as rehiring laid-off workers, creating new jobs, workforce development and tax policy — await comprehensive COVID-19 vaccinations and herd immunity, business leaders agreed.
That needs to be everyone's first priority, Mandle said.
Jim Spencer • 202-662-7432