Minn. minimum wage increase raises concerns for WI border areas

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PEPIN, Wis. (WEAU) - Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) signed a new minimum wage law raising wages to at least $9.50 an hour by 2016.

With Wisconsin’s minimum at $7.25, there's some concern people may choose to move or work in Minnesota for a higher wage.

For border counties like Pepin, there's some question whether people making wages below $9.50 would drive or move for a bigger paycheck, and what that would do to businesses in Wisconsin.

David Klein is the store manager at Countryside Co-op in Pepin. He said he expects no problems filling part time job openings, but that could get more competitive when Minnesota raises its minimum wage over the next three years.

“The question is, if they're willing to drive 20 miles a day, 25 miles a day too, and buy gas for that, is that going to make up the difference for what they're going to be making?” Klein said.

“There's the elderly and younger people that don't want to drive, and if it's just part time work, it doesn't pay for them to drive to Minnesota, when they can stay here and work,” Economic Development Coordinator for Pepin County Jacki Drier said.

There's also some concern people would move out of the state for higher pay. Some say Wisconsin will have to follow suit in the near future but that could mean fewer jobs or higher prices.

“We all want to see higher wage positions in this community and throughout the region. We like to see wealth generation, however making sure it's sustainable and making sure the companies are going to be remaining competitive in the global marketplace,” Executive Director of the Eau Claire Area Economic Development Corporation Brian Doudna said.

“You're going to need to be competitive, so therefore, if they're going to offer $9 an hour, then you need to be competitive and seriously look at that or at least make it close,” Pepin County Board Supervisor Jim Kraft said.

“You could raise it minimally and make that difference up, you go from $8.50 to $9.50, that's a dollar an hour, $8 hours a day, $40 a week, on a couple employees, you could raise it but do it minimally, I think,” Klein said.

Doudna said he thinks the change in Minnesota will have a minimal effect in the Chippewa Valley with most skilled positions paying above the minimum wage.

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