Our View: Despite Rochester snub, loan program is worth a shot

Rep. Greg Davids, of Preston, shares a laugh last fall at Big Bob’s Eatery in Spring Valley with Jim Struzyk, the city’s mayor for 20 years. Struzyk was recovering from hip surgery at the time. Spring Valley was among the 17 cities that received a total of $5 million in revenue from Rochester’s local option sales tax, thanks to Davids’ efforts in 2011.

You have to admire Greg Davids’ chutzpah.

In 2011, the long-time Minnesota House member from Preston finessed $5 million from Rochester’s $139.5 million local option sales tax and gave it to 17 area cities to promote economic development. Though it took a bit of cloak room sleight-of-hand to get it done, it was a compromise that Rochester leaders accepted and had a positive impact on area cities.

Now he’s proposing a big state loan program for Southeast Minnesota — but Rochester can’t have any of the money.

Apparently the "Greg Davids Good Neighbor Policy," as he called the $5 million sales tax plan in 2011, whetted his appetite for more. He plans to introduce a bill to create a revolving loan fund of $30 million to $50 million to assist area businesses.

This "Son of the Greg Davids Good Neighbor Policy" would be administered by the state, and Rochester enterprises need not apply.


"This is something I’ve been thinking about for some time," Davids told the Post Bulletin. "How do we help the small towns surrounding Rochester?"

According to John Wade, the former Journey to Growth chairman who helped Davids develop the idea along with RAEDI’s Gary Smith, said it would be an "evergreen" fund to provide business loans in counties from I-35 to the river, for businesses at least two years old that have been profitable in the past year.

The Rochester sales tax money was handled by area cities and EDAs, which in many cases made loans and grants to businesses. This program would cast a wider net, would be aimed at existing employers, and would be strategically targeted to promote development.

If there’s money — a very big if — count us in, despite the snub and pending the fine print. Though every region in the state would like a pot of money for business loans, cities in this area will have particular opportunities as DMC gains traction.

Is it happening yet in a way that should trigger an up to $50 million business loan program? That’s an argument Davids will have to make, and as he proved with the hustle of our "Good Neighbor" sales tax money, he’s a creative salesman.

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