The city of Rochester has long been the economic engine for southeast Minnesota, and these days it's sharing the wealth with the smaller towns around it.
Rochester is sharing part of its new sales tax with 17 nearby small towns under a legislative requirement set after voters approved extending the local sales tax last fall, Minnesota Public Radio reported Thursday.
Rochester officials estimate 45,000 people commute from small communities around southeastern Minnesota to work in the bigger city each day, and many also do much of their shopping and dining in Rochester.
The Mayo Clinic is Rochester's main employer and is poised to grow dramatically in the next two decades. Officials in neighboring communities see their towns' survival tied directly to what happens in Rochester and say improvements in the small towns can help attract people looking for a mix of rural and urban lifestyles.
For example, an estimated 60 percent of Stewartville's 6,000 residents work in Rochester, 12 miles away, and many work for Mayo. Stewartville will get about $633,000, which City Administrator Bill Schimmel said is a huge boost. He said Stewartville will use the money to offer $5,000 cash rebates to property owners who build residential or commercial buildings worth $100,000 or more on vacant lots.
"The bottom line is: We're all working together. If one of us can help each other, we can all become strong by it," Schimmel said.