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County takes first step to form EDA

By
Mavis Fodness

A committee to study whether or not Rock County should form its own economic development authority is being formed.
At their Jan. 22 meeting, commissioners approved the 11- to 15-member study committee which will have 90-days from its initial meeting to make recommendations.
Goal of the county EDA is to attract more business and industry to lessen the burden on agriculture, said County Administrator Kyle Oldre. 
Agriculture currently comprises over 80 percent of the county’s estimated market value.
“If you have created an EDA you have more tools than what the county traditionally has now,” Oldre said. “The county is basically limited to tax abatement.”
An EDA has broader powers, according to information from Assistant County Attorney Don Klosterbuer.
EDAs have the ability to levy for economic development purposes. The levy cannot exceed 0.01813 percent of the county’s estimated market value, according to Klosterbuer.
Oldre estimated that amount to be about $529,000.
“It’s a pretty big tool in the toolbox,” he said.
EDA options include exercising the right of eminent domain, entering into partnerships and/or contracts, acquiring easements for an economic development district and acting as an agent for another governmental unit to carry out EDA purposes.
“If we want to develop an industrial park (in the county), it’s better to do it in 2019,” Oldre said.
Last year, the southern third of the county’s townships were designated as Opportunity Zones by the federal government.
The zones encourage long-term investments in low-income rural and urban communities nationwide. The program is outlined in the federal Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017.
Oldre recently attended a meeting about Opportunity Zones.
“To maximize your Opportunity Zone, you really have to have the investment by the end of 2019 to maximize the first seven years of the Opportunity Zone out to 10 (years),” he said. “That’s how the federal rules were set.”
The county’s Opportunity Zone designation includes portions of Luverne and Luverne Township plus the townships of Magnolia, Martin, Clinton and Kanaranzi. 
Cities of Magnolia, Hills and Steen are also included in the designation.
Commissioners will authorize a resolution naming specific organizations to the exploratory committee at their next meeting, which is set for 9 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 5.