The May 7 Brainerd Dispatch quoted Representative John Ward that the new $556 million bonding bill “contains funding for…a potential $2 million for area trails. The bonding bill also has a $50 million Business Development Grant Program administered through DEED. Area units of government across the state will be able to apply for grant money for projects.” Ward added, “This bill creates jobs.”
As a voter in the lakes area, an area suffering through a 14 percent unemployment crisis, I wanted to know how it helps us by taking our representative at his word. This is what I learned.
First, he cited a potential $2M for area trails. However, I learned from the DNR that the $4M appropriated will be used only for repair of existing trails and facilities statewide, and not create any new trails here. Therefore, we won’t see any tourist dollars from this expenditure. It’s noteworthy that the bill he introduced for $2.365 million to create much needed new trails in Cuyuna Lakes died in committee.
He said there is $50 million for a Business Development Grant Program administered through DEED. This money is only for eligible communities in greater Minnesota with “complex and costly public infrastructure development projects for industrial development parks and businesses that might not occur without public financial assistance” according to its website. Is anything like that being planned for our county?
This bill doesn’t create private sector, permanent, new jobs in the lakes area, or encourage tourism. Instead, we are paying for more public projects outside of the lakes area. We don’t benefit from that. It appears we will get to pay the tax bill to back the bond, but locally we don’t get a slice of the money pie up front.