EAST GRAND FORKS (AP) -- Calling it the "mother of all economic development tools," Gov. Tim Pawlenty has unveiled a major jobs growth initiative aimed at the state's rural areas and regional centers.
The Job Opportunity Building Zones initiative, or JOBZ, would allow communities to designate certain lands a tax-free area for businesses and residents. Pawlenty pitched the plan in town meetings in Hibbing and East Grand Forks this week.
Pawlenty said he thinks the plan is the shot in the arm the state needs to boost its economy. "What we're doing now isn't working, so we have to try other things," he said.
Pawlenty intends to sell the plan over the next few days in similar town meetings throughout the state. He said he wants feedback from local officials, but he also mentioned that if people like JOBZ, they should press their state senators and representatives to approve it.
Pawlenty said he would like to have the program up and running within the year, though opposition in the DFL-controlled Senate could prove strong.
The bill would create 10 tax-exempt zones, each with a maximum life of 12 years, to parcel out to communities. The maximum size of each zone would be 5,000 acres, though they may be divided into six separate subzones. This provision would allow small towns and counties to team up and apply for one zone together. Twin Cities suburbs would not be able to apply, but other regional hubs such as Duluth and Rochester could.
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