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DFL lawmakers describe jobs plan

Director of Program Management with AmeriPride Services Dave Rotman, left, describes the smooth transition to move AmeriPride headquarters to Bemidji with Representative's John Persell, DFL-4A, and Tim Mahoney, DFL-67A, on Friday afternoon. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

State Representatives John Persell and Tim Mahoney visited Bemidji to explain a new DFL jobs plan on Friday.

The plan is designed to grow jobs and support small businesses.

Persell, DFL-Bemidij, and Mahoney, DFL-St. Paul, took a tour of AmeriPride's facilities and talked about the business' successful move to Bemidji while pitching the new job plan to local business leaders and educators.

While developing the plan, Mahoney, D-St. Paul, said that he focused on programs that have been proven to create jobs in other states.

"These are programs that help people get jobs," Mahoney said.

The plan would create job growth by investing in the work force and infrastructure.

A new jobs tax credit would create new jobs immediately by providing businesses with a $3,000 tax credit for each unemployed Minnesotan, veteran or recent graduate hired in 2012. This $35 million initiative would create over 10,000 new, private sector jobs this year.

A new bonding bill would provide $775 million for new investment in infrastructure.

To help Minnesota compete in business expansion, an additional $10 million would be provided to the Minnesota Investment Fund.

"We certainly believe the plan we are laying out would benefit our Minnesota workers," Persell said.

Mahoney also wants to expand the FastTrac Initiative statewide, which would help unprepared adults succeed in the workplace by integrating basic skills education and career-specific training where new skills are in high demand.

New additions made to the job plan include a pilot program called "Bridge to Work Minnesota," which would assists up to 5,000 unemployed workers re-enter the work force by providing wage supplement.

Also, state projects, contracts and purchases will be awarded to Minnesota firms. Mahoney said that 68 cents of every dollar spent on a local purchase stayed in the state economy, compared to 43 cents of a dollar spent at a retail chain.

Bemidji State University President Richard Hanson liked many points in the plan, but said that it was lacking in education.

"The bonding bill is quite inadequate," Hanson said. "We're waiting for the legislature to craft a compelling vision of the future, and that's not happening."

Executive Director of the Joint Economic Development Commission Dave Hengel also stated that education should be a high priority in the plan.

"We've got to keep investing in our schools to keep people in this community," Hengel said. "We have to lay that foundation to be successful."