Incubator bill could face an unsure road

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 6, 2001


Friday, April 06, 2001

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Incubator bill could face an unsure road

The idea of a business incubator in Albert Lea has plenty of merit; the idea of paying for part of it with state funds is less certain.

A group of leaders from Albert Lea visited St. Paul twice this week to testify before House and Senate committees on behalf of the bill, which would provide a half-million to convert an existing spec building in to a full-blown business incubator, designed to encourage and enable local entrepreneurs.

They are entering untested waters, trying to get money for this kind of local capital investment project in a non-bonding year. History suggests they would have a better chance trying to get such a request in a bonding bill, but they think they can appeal to a statewide interest and get something done this year.

Their case: That business incubators have been a successful way to boost startup businesses in other states, including Wisconsin; that rural Minnesota cities, which may have better luck growing their own businesses instead of luring in somebody else’s; will take Albert Lea’s example; and that at least one other city, Hibbing, is also asking for money for a similar project.

The biggest obstacle the bill faces is an attitude among lawmakers that it only serves the Albert Lea area. It may be a tough predisposition to overcome, but some leaders are cautiously optimistic about their chances.

If things don’t go well this year, their chances could be better for two reasons during the next session. First, it’s a bonding year. And second, they’ll have already made their arguments once, and will have made an impression on lawmakers.