Sales Tax Message #6 from Jerry Williams

Friends, Colleagues and Fellow Citizens:

In my last message (#5), I asked the question, “What kind of city do we want to be?”  Answering that question certainly goes beyond renewing our local ½ cent sales tax, but I also think the renewal is a big part of the answer.

As a growing and maturing community, what do we want our vision of the future to look like?  Does it contain an increasing awareness of public safety needs as well as an awareness of the increasing number of senior citizens?  Regarding the later, do you realize that between the 2010 census and the 2030 census, the number of people in our area over the age of 60 will increase by 94%?  What are we doing to prepare for that?

Do we want our vision to include our youth, recreation, higher education and K-12 education?  Is efficiency and reliability of transportation systems part of our future?  What about staying ahead of infrastructure (the stuff usually underground that we don’t see) maintenance and upgrades?  And are we willing to invest in our future as a legacy for future generations?

All of those areas, I believe, should be part of the vision of a city strategically planning for the future.  They are included in the renewal of the ½ cent local sales tax, not because the citizens’ advisory committee to the Mayor and City Council was just looking for projects, but because the committee felt that those areas brought the most value and sustainability to the City as it moved into the future.

Besides capital projects that build structures for the future, there are investment opportunities that support long-term economic development, something that successful cities do on a regular basis.  Both the $5 million to RAEDI (Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc.) and the $20 million for Destination Medical Community (DMC) do just that.  The former will be used to make loans and investments in businesses that expand and diversify the Rochester economy.  Targeted industries for investment can include life sciences, bio-businesses, information technology and manufacturing.  The goal is that this $5 million will be used to leverage $100 million or more in private investments to expand the local tax base and create 2,500 new jobs.

The DMC project is similarly an investment opportunity.  We’re good when it comes to medical hospitality (outside the walls of the Clinic) but we can be better, much better.  This project is designed to do just that, make us better.  When we become better in meeting the needs of the many visitors who come to this community for their medical care, it will also make it better for those of us fortunate to live here and sleep in our own beds every night as well as those who visit us for reasons other than medical care.

Mayo will take care of the health and hope.  We as a city have a responsibility to deal with the hospitality factor.  The $20 million (up to half paid by visitors) assigned to DMC is this community investing in the infrastructure necessary to support Mayo’s significant investment in capital projects (the potential of $2.5 billion happening here in Rochester).  The $20 million is not paid to Mayo but will have the potential to leverage private funds for capital costs related to planning, design, land, construction, tenant improvements and associated costs.  The estimate is that this effort will result in the creation of 5,000 jobs and $557 million of economic output over the next ten years.  What city in the country would not quickly come up with a $20 million commitment to support a business investing $2.5 billion in their community?  The vast majority of the people in groups I’ve spoken to get this.  They understand the critical nature of this argument for our community’s future.

Occasionally, I get the comment, “give me examples.”  So, could this mean a welcome center?  Yes, it could.  Could it mean better shuttle service between the airport and downtown?  Yes.  Could it mean assistance to businesses that cater to patients, many who are fragile, and the complexity of their needs outside the clinic setting?  Yes.  Could it also mean infrastructure support related to technology and other wireless needs, specialized menus, parking areas, green space for respite, etc.?  Yes, it could.  It could mean lots of other things.  In fact, our creativity may be the only limiting factor in what we can do to make our community more hospitable.  This is a several year process where all the answers and things we need to do aren’t going to be available today.  But it’s going in the right direction.

Have you checked out the YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49w4m6fK9ZI or visited our website:  www.commoncentsrochestermn.com ?  And, as always, feel free to forward this email to others, and ask them to support this effort by voting ‘yes.’

NOTE: We are also putting together an early November advertisement in the Post Bulletin where we list businesses and or individuals who support the renewal.  If you would like your name or business included, please respond to me via email no later than Wednesday, October 24, and I’ll add your name to the list.  We hope to have an extensive list of people who know that this renewal is in the best long-term needs of this community.  Thank you for your willingness to do this.  It’s Common Cents! Please Vote ‘Yes!’

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