Greater Minnesota cities push economic development plan

Businesses outside of the Twin Cities need a boost, the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities says, and asks legislators and Gov. Mark Dayton to provide help.

The most dramatic example of greater Minnesota businesses needing assistance comes from a tax credit approved in 2010, designed to influence people with money to invest in businesses. Sixty-one of the projects under the program were in the Twin Cities area, with just six elsewhere in the state.

So the coalition says the program, known as the angel investment tax credit, should provide twice the tax break for greater Minnesota investors than for those who invest in the Twin Cities.

The coalition also proposes to:

– Provide tax credits for businesses that hire college students as interns.

– Give tax credits to firms that establish job training programs.

– Borrow $15 million to help 60 communities with industrial parks build streets, sewers and other infrastructure to be ready for new businesses to move in.

– Borrow $35 million to improve greater Minnesota road projects.

The tax credits would cost the state $26 million.

Fergus Falls and Worthington mayors said the programs would help them compete with nearby states.

Mayor Hal Leland said Fergus Falls, like other greater Minnesota communities, has tried for years to boost its economic development prospects.

“We are losing workers to South Dakota and North Dakota,” Leland said, because of lower taxes and higher pay available to those willing to commute to the west.

A quarter of one Wahpeton, N.D., industry’s workers make the 25-mile drive from Fergus Falls, the mayor said.

In the meantime, 340 jobs have gone unfilled in Fergus Falls, the mayor said.

To the south in Worthington, Mayor Alan Oberloh said that his community appears to have plenty of job openings, but not enough people to fill them.

“If someone wants a job, wants to work, you would find it here,” he said.

A bioscience park on Worthington’s north end is about ready to open, Oberloh said, along with a commercial area across the road.

Glenn Thuringer of the Worthington Regional Economic Development Commission said that his community needs to compete with nearby South Dakota and Iowa to make those parks successful.

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