Getting the clear picture of the challenges Minnesota businesses face is best done face-to-face.

That’s just what Secretary of State Steve Simon has done for the third consecutive year as he tours all of Minnesota’s 87 counties.

With his staffer behind the wheel, Simon hit the road last week making stops in International Falls, as well as in Kittson, Roseau, Lake of the Woods, and Itasca counties.

Locally, he met with area chamber of commerce members and officials, and city and county representatives as he discussed two new products launched to assist businesses and consumers to get a better picture of the commerce in the state.

We like that he recognizes that sitting in an office in St. Paul may not provide the best view of what’s happening in the rest of the state.

We also like that he encourages people to contact he and his staff with ideas of how the Minnesota Business Snapshot, a new initiative, can be improved to provide more and better information about the state’s businesses. He also wants feedback on a rationalized quarterly report that people may have emailed to them to assist them in understanding the economic health of where they live and do business.

But even better, Simon also was here to listen to the concerns and challenges that Borderland businesses face. He heard about a lack of day care options that keeps some people from taking good jobs; as well as vacant jobs and the impediments to drawing people to the community.

Clearly, he better understood the needs of Borderland with his discussion. And we learned about products Simon has established that can help us to better understand the economic climate in which we live and work.