More rural broadband funding cited as top priority

ST. PAUL — The Greater Minnesota Partnership wants more focus in the 2015 legislative session on rural issues and economic development opportunities outside the metropolitan area.

The group, which advocates for Greater Minnesota development policies and financial resources, has called on Gov. Mark Dayton to act on a number of initiatives for rural areas of the state.

The GMNP board, at a meeting last week, set its top priority a major infusion of $200 million of state money for expansion of broadband.

“In order to close the growing economic gap between the rural and metro parts of the state, Greater Minnesota businesses need high-speed broadband,” said GMNP President Gary Evans in a news release.

In addition, the group is requesting $120 million for workforce-related issues, including:

• $100 million for more adequate workforce housing, which is a problem that plagues many Greater Minnesota communities.

• $20 million for a flexible, employer-driven job training program.

“State funding for these programs will bring job growth to Greater Minnesota and build a stronger economy for our entire state,” Evans said.

The GMNP Board, comprised of economic development professionals and business leaders from across the state, also called on legislators to join with the governor in a better effort for Greater Minnesota.

“We hope and expect the newly elected legislators — especially those from Greater Minnesota — to show leadership on these issues that are so important to our communities.

“We are calling on the governor and legislators from both parties to make Greater Minnesota economic development a priority this session,” Evans said.

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