Helping Greater Minnesota
In the last couple months, representatives from Greater Minnesota Partnership have traveled to six cities in rural Minnesota to see what are the outstate needs and concerns.
“I think one of the interesting things is the issues were really the same across the state,” GMNP Executive Director Dan Dorman said. “The top three issues are typically the top three issues.”
He said that somewhat surprisingly, the top three concerns of Greater Minnesota are broadband, job skills and transportation. The most surprising part, he said, is the desire for broadband.
Since the survey of the cities were GMNP’s own and “not scientific by any means,” Dorman said it could be an under representation of the business community.
A few of the other concerns from cities include Business Development Public Infrastructure, regulations, amenities, access to capital, lifestyle issues and statewide business property tax.
The purpose of the meetings and survey results helped aid GMNP to set goals for 2014, and know what issues need to be lobbied for most.
Besides broadband, the biggest issue the group will work on in the coming year is the Greater Minnesota New Employees Job Training Program.
“When we get out and talk to mainly manufacturers in Minnesota, they tell us that that is their No. 1 issue,” he said of employees needing qualified employees.
“In Greater Minnesota, 60 percent of employers say, ‘yeah, we’re having a hard time.’ In the metro area, it’s even 50 percent, so they’re having a hard time there, too,” he said.
Narrowing the needs of Greater Minnesota to these 10, GMNP will now go to legislatures and lobby for them.
“That’s what makes our organization different from some of the other ones — we concentrate only on Greater Minnesota. We need to band together.”
Ten goals to work toward
The top 10 goals the partnership plans to work on in 2014 include the biggest concerns they heard on their tour of Greater Minnesota, and some extras.
Dorman said they are in no particular order.
1. Greater MN Business Development Public Infrastructure grant: The GMNP supports an annual $10 million or greater appropriation for the BDPI grant program and believes that the program should remain a stand-alone program open to only Greater Minnesota without earmarks to specific geographic areas or for specific projects.
2. Broadband expansion: The GMNP supports expansion of high-speed broadband internet in Greater Minnesota, as rural areas have only about 50 percent of the access to high speed services that the Twin Cities has. In order to do business in the 21st Century, Greater Minnesota needs access to the web at speeds that are not possible exclusively with DSL lines. Greater Minnesota needs fiber optic cables to homes, schools and workplaces. The GMNP will be supporting reforms to state law that encourage competition and a long-term vision to get Greater Minnesota connected.
3. Corridors of Commerce: Support $200 million a year for the Corridors of Commerce program, with half of the funding going to Greater Minnesota, as part of a comprehensive transportation package.
4. Greater Minnesota Expansion Program: The Partnership supports the Greater Minnesota Business Expansion Program passed in the 2013 legislative session and also supports adding additional incentives and modifications to the program to better target manufacturing expansion. This program offers Greater Minnesota business incentives to grow in the city where they are already located.
5. Greater Minnesota New Employees Job Training Program: GMNP supports legislation to enact a jobs training program for Greater Minnesota businesses. This program could take many forms, and may include direct funding for businesses to provide their own training.
6. Greater Minnesota Angel Investment Tax Credit Expansion: GMNP supports legislation to adjust the angel investment tax credit to provide for a 50 percent tax credit for investors in a qualified small business in Greater Minnesota. The program must be changed or a new program created broadening the businesses that can use the program from technology based industries to agriculture and manufacturing, as well as reducing the wage mandate from nearly $20 per hour to a wage that is more prevalent in Greater Minnesota. A percentage of the money must be reserved for use in Greater Minnesota as well.
7. Small Business Loan Program: The GMNP supports a loan guarantee program to support small business financing, because the Small Business Loan Guarantee program is already established and has a track record of success.
8. Workforce housing: GMNP supports efforts to increase access housing in areas where large employers are looking to expand.
9. Statewide Business Property Tax: The state should offer qualifying businesses under the Greater Minnesota Business expansion program up to 12 years of exemption from the statewide business property tax. The state should also begin phasing out the state business property tax by exempting the first $150,000 of commercial/industrial value in Greater Minnesota from the statewide business property tax.
10. Bonding and infrastructure in Greater Minnesota: The next bonding bill should place a higher priority on the infrastructure needs in Greater Minnesota including the funding of convention and events centers, transportation, wastewater, recreational and multi-use trail systems, higher education, and other economic development infrastructure.
For more information on Greater MN Partnership, visit www.gmnp.org.
Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.