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Latest jobs bill has help for rural residents

MONTEVIDEO -- In terms of what it could mean for rural development, Sen. Gary Kubly believes a jobs bill recently approved by the Legislature is one of the most important pieces of legislation he's seen in his 14-year tenure in office.

He also thinks that most of the people in rural Minnesota know little about it, and could "lose out" as a result.

"That's my concern," said Kubly, DFL- Granite Falls.

It's why he came to a luncheon Monday in Montevideo armed with two lawyers from the Larkin and Hoffman firm in Minneapolis to outline the opportunities to business and local government representatives.

Kubly's enthusiasm for the legislation is not misplaced, according to Julie Perrus and Michael Schley, attorneys with the firm. The legislation will make it possible for more entrepreneurs to raise capital and for homeowners and others to take on improvement projects they could not otherwise due to the difficulties of obtaining financing from conventional sources today.

One big part of this legislation -- tax credits for angel investors -- is getting attention. The Kandiyohi County economic development agency is among the groups promoting the opportunity to interest investors in start-up, new technology ventures.

Schley said he knows past clients who due largely to their rural locations could not raise the capital they needed from private investors for very promising ideas. They just couldn't find the investors they might have been able to find in larger, urban areas, he said.

But it's not just new ventures that can benefit: The legislation also provides incentives and help for research and development by existing businesses. That's what brought Rick Marks and Linda Nissen from Suttle, a manufacturer of communication connectivity products located in Hector. The company is interested in learning if it qualifies for research and development support, they explained.

Schley said he is concerned that the requirements of the legislation will seem too complex for many, and deter their interest. While parts of the legislation certainly can seem complex, he said the state will be working from the premise of helping applicants find how they qualify.

Perrus said one of the more promising components of the jobs bill is that it allows county and city governments to provide Property-Assessed Clean Energy Finance, or PACE, financing. Communities could provide homeowners with financing they cannot obtain from commercial sources to make energy-related improvements to their homes and pay the costs as part of an annual assessment on their property taxes. Assessed financing for up to 20 percent of a property's value is allowed, and can be repaid over a 20-year period.

The bill also allows the state to match federal grant funds to aid rehabilitation projects on historic structures.

Kubly said these provisions and others could benefit many of the rural communities in his district, where jobs creation and rehabilitation of aging infrastructure are top priorities.

The tools are there, he said, if only word can get out that they're available.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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