Business the buzz at Columbus forum

Anoka County officials speak at annual breakfast


Paul Rignell
Columbus Reporter

When opting to do business in their city of Columbus, the average resident here might be shopping for fishing or hunting gear at Gander Mountain, weight equipment at Second Wind Exercise or a motorhome at Coates RV.

But Columbus has so much more than that in its business community, with city records recently showing more than 110 companies or self-employed persons in fields from auto sales to auto repair, electrical to landscaping contractors, pet housing and grooming to taxidermy.

Members of the city Economic Development Authority spread word among those businesses this winter to inform and invite them to a fifth-annual ColumBIZ breakfast forum where guests could build some connections and renew others, all hosted by Columbus’ largest employer, Running Aces Harness Park, the morning of March 7.

Greetings from Anoka County

The city officials and their business guests welcomed updates from Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo and Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah, whose county district includes Columbus. She also holds the gavel as chairperson for the county board meetings in 2013.


Palumbo said some crimes were up and others were down last year. His office saw fewer cases for vehicle theft, but more for domestic violence.

He said that he would like to see more protection for the mentally ill, which in turn could save potential victims from those who are violent. “If we don’t see them on (addressing) the mental illness side, the sheriff is going to see them in the jail,” Palumbo said.

Specific to businesses, or maybe charitable service groups that the owners may support, he cautioned that embezzlement cases are growing and he advised his audience, “don’t leave check-signing (rights) to one person.”

Palumbo spoke also of one case of business building vandalism, a case that affects more people or properties than might be clear, he said. After a bank foreclosure on his building, a business owner ripped out pipes and heating ducts from the inside, spread animal waste throughout the place, and upset the outdoor landscaping. It is wrong to read that as a non-public matter confined to damaging one property, Palumbo said.

“Do you want to have a business that’s next to a building that’s been devastated?” the county attorney asked, encouraging the Columbus business owners to take concern for their neighbors. “It hurts us all when you take from somebody. It isn’t a civil matter when it affects all of us.”

Sivarajah told the group that the county board has been doing what it can to reduce tax burden on businesses and all land owners, cutting the county levy in each of the past two years.

Small businesses are closer to the county officials than to their state legislators, Sivarajah said, and as those in St. Paul iron out a state exchange model for the federal Affordable Care Act among other decisions that affect business and citizens, the county will stay vocal there, she pledged.

“There is a lot to learn, and we will continue to learn and make sure our legislators are aware of what your ramifications are,” Sivarajah said. “This county board recognizes that you, as job creators, have really taken a risk.”