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House Workforce Committee approves legislation to invest in Minnesota workers and businesses

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

St. Paul, MN - Today, the House Workforce and Business Development Finance and Policy Committee approved their bill compiling proposals from legislators and the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) to invest in and improve the lives of Minnesota’s workers and businesses. 

“Working Minnesotans are driving our state’s economic recovery, but far too many of them are left out of the benefits of a prospering Minnesota,” said Rep. Mohamud Noor (DFL - Minneapolis), chair of the committee. “We won’t have a truly strong economy until workers and businesses, especially those that have been historically marginalized, are able to achieve their full potential in our state. The solutions we put forward today will build a stronger, more inclusive economy for Minnesotans.”

The legislation contains $175.9 million in investments aimed at promoting economic development opportunities, particularly for communities that have largely been left out and underrepresented. The bill also provides substantial funding relief for small businesses that continue to struggle, including businesses in the northern part of the state that were directly harmed by the closure of the Canadian border.

“This bill provides historic investment into the economic development of our highly disinvested communities. For too long, many populations and locations in certain areas have been overlooked and not adequately funded and invested in. This must end now. We must start a new day,” said Rep. Jay Xiong (DFL - Saint Paul), vice chair of the committee. “We’re committed to economic growth and equal opportunity for all people. This includes initiatives to support minority-owned businesses, women entrepreneurs, Black developers who want to break into the development industry, and businesses along the Canadian border that are barely hanging on. There are parts of Minnesota’s economy that are doing extremely well and parts that are genuinely struggling. It is high time we equalize the playing field and ensure that everyone has the same chances to grow and succeed. With a $9.25 billion surplus, now is the time for the state to step up to the plate and give all Minnesotans a genuine chance to share in prosperity.”

The bill’s most significant investments are dedicated to supporting small businesses, including $45 million for the new Spark Revolving Loan Program, and $35 million in small business recovery grants with amounts dedicated for businesses owned by veterans, women, or people of color. With the closing of the Canadian border, the businesses that rely on international travel have dealt with compounded difficulties, which is why $7.5 million has been appropriated to help establishments in the region. 

Funds in the bill are also appropriated for redeveloping and revitalizing business communities. The legislation invests $5 million in DEED’s Redevelopment Program, which provides grants to local units of government to help prepare blighted properties for development. The Main Street Revitalization Program would receive $20 million, building upon last year’s work of providing loans to targeted areas throughout the state, notably the Twin Cities business corridors impacted by civil unrest in 2020.

To support economically disadvantaged communities, $25.2 million is appropriated for another round of the popular Targeted Community Capital Projects Grants, which were awarded to businesses throughout the state as part of last year’s Tax Bill. The DEED program funds projects that have otherwise not benefited from capital funds.

In order to support new entries to the country and the workforce, the bill invests $470 thousand into the Office of New Americans at DEED, and establishes the Interdepartmental Coordinating Council on Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. This council will advise the Office of New Americans and assist in their duties to connect employers with the immigrant and refugee community, and ensure that immigrants and refugees have equitable access to state services. An additional $1 million is appropriated for new American support in anticipation of Afghan and Ukrainian refugees. 

The bill also invests $5 million in Women of Color Economic Opportunity, breaking the investment into three parts with $2 million for the Center for Economic Inclusion, $2 million for the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, and $1 million for the Coalition of Asian American leaders. 

Other significant investments in the bill include:

  • $20 million to be split among the state’s 16 workforce development boards
  • $20 million for the Emerging Developer Fund
  • $5 million in youth tech training
  • $4 million in childcare grants
  • $1 million for the Minnesota Marketing Campaign
  • $800 thousand for Enterprise Minnesota

On a party-line vote of 7-5, the bill was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means. A summary of the bill can be found here, and a spreadsheet of appropriations can be found here. Video of today’s Workforce and Business Development Finance and Policy Committee hearing can be found on the House Public Information YouTube channel, and additional information is available on the committee’s webpage