Below is a news release that was sent to media outlets throughout the state today. A PDF version is also available.

For Immediate Release
Feb. 18, 2015

Contact: Julie Liew

Critical job creation bill for Greater Minnesota moves forward

ST. PAUL—A critical grant program to provide public infrastructure for private business growth in Greater Minnesota passed its first hurdle Tuesday in the House Greater Minnesota Economic and Workforce Development Policy Committee.

H.F. 578 and H.F. 579, both authored by Rep. Mary Franson (R-Alexandria), appropriates $20 million to the Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure (BDPI) grant program. The legislation also makes the program useful to more cities by increasing the maximum grant award from $1 million to $2 million and allowing grants to be used for more types of infrastructure projects.

The Senate companion bills, S.F. 763 and S.F. 386, both authored by Sen. Vicki Jensen (DFL-Owatonna) were recently introduced and are anticipated to be scheduled for a hearing in that body soon. Key Greater Minnesota senators, including Sen. Jensen, held a press conference today to promote the BDPI bill and other important rural economic development proposals.

“I’d like to thank Rep. Franson and Sen. Jensen for authoring legislation to increase funding and make important changes to the BDPI program,” said Heidi Omerza, president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities and a member of the Ely City Council. “BDPI grants help cities of all sizes and in every region of Greater Minnesota.”

Since its creation in 2003, a total of $52 million in BDPI grants have been awarded to 166 cities in Greater Minnesota. The grants have led to the creation of 1,625 jobs and increased the tax base in Greater Minnesota cities by millions of dollars.

Jerel Nelsen, the community development director in Staples, testified in support of the BDPI legislation at Tuesday’s hearing. He said that a recent $23,230 BDPI grant helped his city afford infrastructure needed to accommodate a local business’s expansion, which will bring 10 new jobs to Staples and increase city’s the tax base by $600,000. The city of Staples would have had to raise property taxes by 6 percent to cover the infrastructure costs had it not been awarded the BDPI grant, he added.

“I wanted to come down and support BDPI because it’s a great program,” Nelsen told the House committee. “It really helps with the economic needs in rural Minnesota.”