By Joshua Schuetz
Winnebago, Blue Earth, and Wells have collaborated to launch a tax abatement program aimed at attracting residents, boosting the local workforce, and addressing the housing shortage. The initiative, developed by CEDA team members Amy Schaefer and Jennifer Howard, along with the Blue Earth and Winnebago Economic Development Authorities, offers significant incentives for potential homeowners.
“The city of Blue Earth has wanted to implement this program for a long time, but the timing wasn’t right,” said Amy Schaefer, who works with the Blue Earth EDA. “It was brought up again, and we partnered with Winnebago and Wells.”
Schaefer and Howard led the planning and coordination efforts, garnering support from stakeholders. “Martin County’s program motivated us to move forward because we saw it as a feasible plan,” said Howard, who works with the Winnebago EDA. “Amy and I collaborated on the planning, rallying everyone together.”
This joint effort is expected to yield positive outcomes for all communities involved. “People understand that if a house goes up in Wells and not in Blue Earth, it’s still beneficial for Blue Earth,” Schaefer emphasized.
The three cities successfully garnered the support of Faribault County, as the board of commissioners agreed to participate in the program by offering tax abatement to the three communities. The county is also considering expanding the program to be countywide.
That means applicants who are approved to participate in the program in Blue Earth, Winnebago or Wells can apply to have the county’s portion of their taxes abated as well.
The program is structured as a rebate covering 100 percent of city taxes over a five-year period. It applies to both single-family homes and multi-family properties with up to four units. However, single-family homes must be owner-occupied, and all properties must comply with local planning and zoning ordinances.
The tax abatement program went live in May, creating new opportunities for prospective homeowners in Wells, Winnebago, and Blue Earth. Schaefer expressed satisfaction with the program’s development, stating, “By eliminating competition between the cities, we have created a strong program for our county in a short amount of time.”
Efforts have been made to ensure clarity in program explanations. “We have researched ways to simplify the explanation, avoiding confusion,” Schaefer added. The communities are now preparing to educate residents about the positive impact that a family of four can bring to the region.