The focus will be on creating jobs when Burnsville Mayor Elizabeth Kautz leads the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors for the first time as its president this weekend in Oklahoma City.

Kautz, inaugurated in January as the conference's 68th president, said a goal of the 1,139 members at the three-day gathering will be to put together a compelling case for Congress to expand the money available for small business loans. It will all be spelled out in what the group is calling its "2010 Metro Agenda for America."

Specifically, the mayors are looking for the Obama administration and Congress to increase loan limits made available through the Small Business Administration from $1 million to $5 million.

"A million dollars is great," Kautz said, "but it really takes more than that to get a small business going. Not only for start-up costs, but the money is needed to get these businesses through any rough periods.

"I know here in Burnsville there is a group interested in starting a small business. They said they needed $5 million to make it happen. We need to get back the lines of credit to allow these businesses to open and create more jobs."

Kautz said the mayors also will send a message to Washington "not to ignore the cities" when it comes to government aid aimed at growing the economy. Kautz said 86 percent of all jobs and 90 percent of the nation's gross domestic product are generated in 362 cities. The mayors believe more focus should be put on those areas "where the jobs are."

Special attention, Kautz said, will be given this weekend to the Gulf Coast cities feeling the economic impact of the BP oil disaster. The mayors hope to get a better handle on where their help is needed most.

Among the other items on the agenda for the conference, which begins Friday, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will speak on behalf of First Lady Michelle Obama's campaign to fight childhood obesity. Kautz said that the conference of mayors joined the fight eight years ago with its Healthy Cities initiative.

Kautz said that Burnsville has several anti-obesity programs that operate in partnership with community businesses and agencies. Among them are community gardens and a program for third-graders called "Switch What You Do, View and Chew." The city also distributes maps featuring hiking paths and suggested walking routes.

Also on the mayors' agenda are committee reports addressing transit, climate protection and national security.

Dean Spiros • 952-882-9203