OWATONNA — City leaders from around the state of Minnesota traveled to Owatonna on Thursday for the beginning for the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities’ summer convention.
The CGMC, which represents Minnesota cities outside the metro area, has about 80 members, many of whom were in Owatonna on Wednesday afternoon to hear about how the CGMC fared at the last legislative session and what the organizations sees in the future.
During a 90-minute afternoon session at the Holiday Inn in Owatonna, lobbyists from the GCMC went over several initiatives important to greater Minnesota and how they plan to move forward with them.
One of the important victories for the group came in economic development when a Business Development Public Infrastructure grant was signed into law, giving $6 million to help stimulate business development, create new jobs and retain existing jobs in Minnesota communities.
“It wasn’t until the final bonding bill at the end of the year where we saw what the House was and what the final Senate figure was for the BDPI grant, and that included $6 million,” said J.D. Burton, an attorney and lobbyist for CGMC. “There is BDPI money that is available right now. If you have a project that fits the criteria and the support to move it forward, they can give you the money when you apply.”
Burton said as 2013 approaches, the coalition has some ideas about how to approach the next legislative session. One of those ideas is to try to revive a tax-credit program that helps local businesses when they make new hires — a program was vetoed at this year’s legislative session.
One of the other topics discussed during the last legislative session was Local Government Aid. After multiple years of cuts to LGA, this year there were none.
“We’re very much for Local Government Aid. That is one of the biggest things that the coalition does is fight for Local Government Aid,” said Steve Peterson, another lobbyist for the CGMC. “If you take it away, tax rates in some communities of Greater Minnesota would double or triple.”
Owatonna Mayor Tom Kuntz, who was in attendance during the afternoon session, said that Local Government Aid is important to Owatonna, but that many other things brought up in the session affect the city.
“When we start looking at the Department of Employment and Economic Development and some of the dollars that are available for increasing participation, growth and bringing companies to Owatonna, those are very important,” Kuntz said.
The convention will be visiting several areas of Owatonna on Thursday and Friday. During the remainder of the convention there will be an award ceremony and new officers will be elected for the CGMC. The convention concludes on Friday morning following a full membership meeting.
Reach reporter Al Strain at 444-2376 or follow him on Twitter.com@OPPalstrain