Minot City Council taps sales tax for economic development initiatives

Minot’s city sales tax dollars are to be tapped to fund new economic development initiatives.

The Minot City Council voted unanimously Monday to designate up to $1.1 million in unallocated dollars from the portion of the first penny of sales tax that is designated for economic development. It is money that otherwise would go into the MAGIC Fund.

Council member Paul Pitner said it’s time to implement activities to get economic development going.

“It’s time to stop having a study done, and then another study that says the same thing over and over again. I don’t know what we’re trying to accomplish by doing that. It’s time to act. It’s time to put some plans in motion,” he said.

Among spending proposals are:

– Downtown building facade improvement, up to $943,000.

– Consultant services for a citywide leakage study and data analysis, up to $50,000.

– Conference registration and travel, up to $7,000.

– Economic Development Administration matching funds for reuse studies of Trinity properties and Big M building and permanent site for food trucks, up to $100,000.

City Manager Harold Stewart previously had discussed the importance of getting good data and conducting a retail leakage analysis using cell phone, credit card and tourism data. Stewart also recommended attending retail conferences to encourage businesses to look at Minot.

“As our city manager pointed out in the workshop here two weeks ago, the City of Minot has resources to do what it needs, but it needs to allocate the funds to support those efforts,” Pitner said. “There are too many vacant, under-utilized buildings, especially on Main Street. We need more retail businesses and we need to push to renovate and maintain those buildings. These conditions will not turn around without help.”

City economic development director Jonathan Rosenthal said no money will be committed to any initiative until the council has a chance to review program specifics, which will be forthcoming at a future meeting.

Asked about the Renaissance Zone incentives as an alternative to additional economic development spending, Rosenthal said that program is not enough. In some cases, he said, buildings that have had minor improvements through the Renaissance Zone need more improvements, which they aren’t eligible for because of previous use of the program.

Council member Tom Ross said he would support the proposal despite having concerns about the downtown constantly asking for more money. A facade program is giving money away for a facelift at a time when city departments have needs, he said.

“Looking at what they need compared to a facelift for private business downtown, it just doesn’t sit well with me,” Ross said.

“It is bustling downtown and, once again, the city is throwing $13 million dollars into a new city hall downtown after millions of dollars of infrastructure,” he added. “I don’t want us as a city to have our blinders on, to where all we see is downtown.”

Mayor Shaun Sipma noted the looming issue of vacant Trinity buildings after the hospital relocates.

“There is no plan, and we’ve seen what happened with one of the other largest buildings downtown when there was no plan,” he said. “It is important that we don’t turn our blinders on and say we’ve got a good start.”

“The money isn’t doing us any good sitting in the bank,” council member Stephan Podrygula said of the spending proposal. “Where I feel a little queasy is in terms of accountability.”

He said he will be looking for specifics on the initiatives and their vetting.

“It’s certainly different from what we’ve done, and there’s always chances. There’s always risk,” he said. “I think it’s worth taking that chance. So I’m going to keep my eyes open. But I think it’s time to try something different.”


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