ST. PAUL – A bill authored by state Rep. Bud Nornes to aid the development of an international college in Fergus Falls appeared to gain strong support during a committee hearing Friday and will be considered for inclusion in an omnibus bill this session.
The bill (HF 3064) Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, crafted provides a tax break helping to convert the soon-to-be vacant Regional Treatment Center in Fergus Falls into a cross-cultural college campus. The Hunan Normal University in China would act as a sister campus to Fergus Falls, with international business studies the training focus.
“The fact there was real bipartisan support in the committee shows we have something going here,” Nornes said. “Representatives from both parties have shown interest in this project.”
Fergus Falls mayor Russ Anderson testified at the hearing Friday. So did Fergus Falls businessman Rick Anderson, who recently visited China to discuss plans. Xintao Xiao, vice mayor of Loudi in the Hunan Province, has been involved in the process.
“This will be a very positive thing in Fergus Falls and the abatement of taxes would be very beneficial,” Rick Anderson said. “We’ve shown this is a viable plan, we just need some help financially to pull this off.”
Rick Anderson also said it would cost the state $7 million to demolish the facility, a scenario he said is likely unless the wheels of a long-term plan are put into motion.
Nornes said sometimes it’s difficult to gauge a committee’s support in the moments after a hearing concludes. That was not the case Friday after visiting the Property Tax Relief and Local Sales Tax Division.
“I walked out feeling really good about this,” Nornes said. “Getting the tax abatement is a really key thing for this project to go forward. When you consider all the new jobs and the positive impact it will have on our area – and the state – it’s easy to see why everyone seemed to be on board. Now we just have to wait for it to be included in an omnibus bill.”