By Mike Kaszuba
A year after trying unsuccessfully to jump start Minnesota's "vertical construction" industry, Sen. James Metzen and the DFLers are trying again.
Metzen, DFL-South St. Paul, the President of the Senate, unveiled a new version of his legislation Monday, which also includes tax credits for historic preservation projects and the so-called "angel investor" tax credit to spur private investment in emerging industries, particularly biosciences and renewable energies. But unlike last year's bill, the new version does not contain a state-backed loan guarantee fund to help projects looking for start-up financing -- a $100 million provision Metzen said he still liked but did not include.
Surrounded by labor officials and business owners, Metzen said that the bill had broad-based support and would augment the Senate DFL's $1 billion bonding bill. "This is not just labor. It's not just business. It's not just DFL. It's not just Republican. This is a jobs bill," he said of the bill's supporters. "This has got to get done."
Metzen also acknowledged that, unlike a similar House DFL proposal introduced recently, his plan did not include specific language to try to revive the Mall of America's stalled phase two project.
Bonnie McDonald, executive director of the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota, said the proposal would create 1,300 to 1,500 jobs rehabilitating historic buildings in Minnesota, such as the former Palace Hotel in Crookston. She said dozens of historic buildings needing repair "need this gap financing desperately" that the bill's historic preservation tax credit would provide.
But the overall proposal, Metzen conceded, comes with a pricetag at a time when Minnesota is facing a $1.2 billion budget deficit. "We're going to find the money within the existing budget," he said. He said that the legislation -- which supporters said would create thousands of jobs -- could do "a pretty good job for $50 million" in costs.
Joe Margarit, the chief financial officer for PlaCor, a Plymouth company, said the proposal would help start-up companies needing relatively small amounts of money to begin. "Unless the [company] founders are well heeled, it's hard to get them off the ground," he said.