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Small cities fight for bigger slice of economic development

By Al Edenloffm Forum News Service

 ALEXANDRIA – When it comes to economic development, cities in rural Minnesota aren’t getting their fair share, according to a new partnership.

It’s trying to give cities such as Alexandria a bigger slice of the pie this legislative session.

The Alexandria City Council agreed this week to join the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities Economic Development Partnership Program in partnership with the Alexandria Area Chamber of Commerce and the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission.

“We need every avenue we can to encourage more (economic) activity in our rural areas,” said council member Owen Miller.

The partnership involves cities, chambers of commerce, economic development authorities and independent businesses. They support three main pieces of legislation:

E A program that would give businesses in Greater Minnesota tax credits or grants to hire college interns. It would require an $11 million biennial appropriation to provide $4,000 per intern.

E A new employee job training program tax credit to help Greater Minnesota businesses find employees with skill sets for 21st century jobs. It would require a $20 million initial appropriation from the Legislature.

E Expansion of the Greater Minnesota Angel Investment Credit. It would redistribute the program’s $12 million allocation by increasing the tax credit from 25 percent to 50 percent for investors who support qualifying businesses in Greater Minnesota.

The partnership also supports two legislative issues that have not been introduced yet – offering state matching grants for business infrastructure, such as building new industrial parks, and restructuring the Job Opportunity Building Zone (JOBZ) program so it would better benefit cities, businesses and taxpayers, said coalition representative Mike Miller, who talked to the council Monday.

Miller said the economic development stakes are high this session. Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed $60 million in new economic development spending and the bulk of it could end up in the metro area unless Greater Minnesota cities work together to get their share, he said.

Members range from the International Falls Economic Development Authority to the city of Worthington and include the  Fargo, Moorhead & West Fargo Chamber of Commerce, Moorhead Economic Development Authority, Crookston Economic Development Authority and Discover Southwest MN Economic Development Partnership.

The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities Summer Conference will be July 24-26 in Bemidji.

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