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home : opinion : editorial
July 5, 2020

5/27/2020 11:02:00 AM
Turn lane to progress

Minnesota has literally spent billions of dollars, over the years, to assist commerce and economic development.
Since 1998, the state's Redevelopment Grant Program alone has awarded 182 grants totaling nearly $70 million in funds. These projects have created or retained over 28,000 jobs.
So it was quite a surprise to learn a proposed Highway 60 commercial development in Windom may fall victim to a $240,000 infrastructure bill from the state.
For months, the Windom Economic Development Authority has worked on a project that would result in a significant development northeast of Dollar General. Ultimately, the project would bring a new cul-de-sac street serving three new lots, plus Dollar General. Plans were already in motion for the addition of at least one new business.
Recently, MnDOT officials delivered some bad news. The new cul-de-sac access could slow down traffic along that stretch of the Highway 60 four-lane. That, in turn, translates into greater potential for accidents.
Long story short, MnDOT officials say a $240,000 turn lane is needed and the city must pay for it. When EDA Executive Director Drew Hage delivered the news at a recent EDA board meeting, it left the board speechless.
There was plenty of discussion, but in the end it was clear that this $240,000 price tag would kill the development. The board has asked Hage to reason with MnDOT, noting that the lone new business is not a high-volume operation. The board hopes the state could hold off on the turn lane until traffic volume becomes an issue.
As we watch this issue unfold we wonder how many other projects are held up for things like turn lanes. On one hand, DEED is handing out huge grants to encourage development. At the same time, a construction fee levied by another branch of government discourages development.
It feels like a blind spot in the state's economic development efforts. Sure, this system assures the $240,000 is covered, but at what long-term cost to the state?
Here is where lawmakers can earn their keep. We urge Sen. Bill Weber and Rep. Rod Hamilton to connect with MnDOT and DEED to search for a solution - not just for the Windom turn lane, but other projects in other cities as well. Perhaps the answer is a three-way split, between the city, MnDOT and DEED. Maybe a new system could also include a zero-interest, or low-interest loan.
Whatever the solution, the focus should be on making business and industrial development easier - not impossible.
    - Rahn Larson

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