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Job creation answers found in our own back yard

We've been hearing a lot about "job creation" lately. Legislators, the governor, businesses and local citizens across the state are looking for new ways to grow jobs and get Minnesota working again. But what works in the metropolitan areas of the state does not always work in Greater Minnesota. So instead of sending away for advice, the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC) decided to look in its own back yard.

Recognizing that those closest to the problem are generally best at finding solutions, the CGMC drew upon local expertise to develop the Greater Minnesota Economic Recovery Plan. This five-month proactive effort utilized the know-how of on-the-ground professionals hailing from Greater Minnesota cities, economic development authorities and chambers of commerce. They provided their insight and guidance to help answer such questions as which job creation programs are working and which are not? They were asked what the state can do better, and what tools are missing from the state's economic development toolbox.

To complement these efforts, the CGMC conducted its own independent research into the changing demographics facing Greater Minnesota communities. Few would be surprised to hear that Greater Minnesota's population growth has lagged behind the metro area or that Greater Minnesota has a lower per capita income. What may surprise many, however, is that Greater Minnesota actually has more residents between the ages of 18 and 24 than the metro area. The problem is that after age 24, we lose many of these workers as they leave Greater Minnesota for the metro area or other destinations out of state. Statistics show that the rest of the rural workforce is decidedly older and less formally educated than the metro. This puts Greater Minnesota at a competitive disadvantage.

The CGMC "Greater Minnesota Economic Recovery Plan" aims to address this competitive disadvantage by providing new grants to businesses to train new employees, connecting students to employers, helping new entrepreneurs flourish in Greater Minnesota, and building the infrastructure necessary to help Greater Minnesota communities compete in the 21st century. Specifically, the following items are needed:

• A New Jobs Training Tax Credit to help fund training of new workers, where businesses receive additional assistance to train new employees in a quick and efficient manner. This will create new jobs and enhance the individual capital of Greater Minnesota workers;

• A Greater Minnesota Internship Program to help businesses connect with college students by creating 1,000 new internships in Greater Minnesota;

• A doubling of the Angel Investment Tax Credit in Greater Minnesota to ensure more entrepreneurs are provided the resources and support necessary to start and grow their business in Greater Minnesota;

• New funding for the Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure (BDPI) grant program, which helps prepare industrial parks for new business development; and

• A Greater Minnesota Interchange Fund to provide the needed transportation investments that drive new businesses and investments to Greater Minnesota communities.

As city officials, we know implementing new proposals is difficult work. Yet, our residents and businesses cannot wait any longer. The Legislature - and in particular our Greater Minnesota legislators of both parties -- must act now to boost job creation in Greater Minnesota. The CGMC's Greater Minnesota Economic Recovery Plan is one place to start. Let's work together to get this done.