Officials seeking half million

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 29, 2001

A state grant of $.

Thursday, March 29, 2001

A state grant of $.5 million would jump start a business incubator project planned for Albert Lea, said Greater Jobs, Inc. Director Pam Bishop. But to get the money, local officials must travel to the Capitol next week and convince the members of the House Jobs Finance Committee.

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Bishop will testify Tuesday before the committee along with Albert Lea Mayor Bob Haukoos and City Manager Paul Sparks. Jean Eaton of Riverland Community College and Mike Moore, board president of Greater Jobs will also join the group.

Rep. Dan Dorman, R-Albert Lea, crafted a bill seeking state aid for an Albert Lea business incubator. He also arranged for the Albert Lea contingent to testify and has been advising them on how the committee process works.

Dorman said the project has considerable merit but little precedent for state funding. The challenge is to convince the committee that the project can have statewide impact, he said. The hearing takes about 30 minutes with time for questions and answers.

&uot;I don’t want everyone to get their hopes up on this because it’s always an uphill battle when your talking about appropriations,&uot; Dorman said. &uot;But I’m an optimist, and it’s a promising project.&uot;

The Albert Lea contingent is asking for $500,000 to remodel a spec building in the North Aire Industrial Park, said Bishop. Once remodeled, the building will become Albert Lea’s first business incubator, dedicated to helping start-up businesses and entrepreneurs in technology, food processing and service industries.

&uot;We will try to convince the committee that this project is a great opportunity for the state to grow Greater Minnesota in technology,&uot; said Bishop, adding she also plans to stress the partnerships involved in the project.

The incubator is a collaborative effort between Greater Jobs, the Albert Lea Port Authority and Riverland Community College, Bishop said. About 75 percent of the funding for the $1 million project would come from the Port Authority.

&uot;That’s one reason it’s so important to get try for this funding,&uot; Bishop said. &uot;It will ease the burden on the city and the other parties involved.&uot;

Bishop, who plans to bring letters of support from the community, said state funding would expedite the project and possibly increase its scope. But if no money is available this year, Bishop hopes to try again next year.

If Dorman’s bill to help the incubator project passes the committee, it must still pass the full House before final passage and signing.

Bishop and Haukoos plan to arrive in St. Paul early enough to meet individually with committee members before the hearing.

&uot;We’re excited about this opportunity. We think we have a good case,&uot; Bishop said.