Above: Arne Duncan announces the designation Tuesday morning.

Proposals to fund education, economic development and other initiatives in north Minneapolis will receive extra priority from the federal government under a “Promise Zone” designation awarded Tuesday.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan made the announcement at the Northside Achievement Zone along the commercial spine of the North Side. Obama administration officials made expected to make similar announcements in seven other communities Tuesday.

"This is not a gift, its an investment," Duncan told the packed room, saying the goal was to eliminate the "opportunity gap" in the area.

The precise impact of the designation remains to be seen, since unlike past “Zone” programs it is not tied to a specific pot of money. The “Empowerment Zone” of the 2000s, for example, awarded the city nearly $30 million.

The city’s application for the designation provoked strong emotions last year from some on the City Council, who were wary that it would merely create an added layer of bureaucracy.

The designation will give the North Side priority receiving grants, several AmeriCORPS volunteers and other federal assistance. Another promoted benefit, tax incentives for area businesses, has not received necessary congressional approval, however.

"Getting a promise zone designation in north Minneapolis will bring partnership and resources here that will elevate our work to the next level," Mayor Betsy Hodges said Tuesday.

Twenty communities are slated to receive the designations altogether, following President Obama’s announcement of the program in this 2013 State of the Union speech.

Other areas awarded on Tuesday are Camden, Hartford, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Sacramento, St. Louis, South Carolina Low Country and South Dakota's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Duncan was joined by Mayor Betsy Hodges and Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith. Others in the audience included former mayor R.T. Rybak, school board member Don Samuels, Hennepin County commissioner Linda Higgins, state reps. Joe Mulllery and Paul Thissen, and state Sen. Bobby Joe Champion.

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