11/1/2018 4:16:00 PM Economic development efforts attract South Korea delegation
South Korea is now the 11th largest economy in the world thanks to corporations like Samsung, LG etc. And a delegation from the Korean International Trade Association (KITA) came to North Branch last week, part of South Korea’s continuing effort to keep building on impressive growth made in the last half-century. The KITA contingent met with members of GPS 45:93, which is a central Minnesota organization of educational, manufacturing and government officials, named for the latitude and longitude of the region. The contact at GPS 45:93 is Karl Schuettler, kschuettler@ northspan.org
KITA formed in 1946, a year after Korea gained independence. It is a private organization advocating for trade and cultural exchange.
Why North Branch? Chisago County HRA/EDA Director Nancy Hoffman told those gathered to meet with the South Korean visitors, that North Branch is an “Opportunity Zone” approved to operate under special rules of the U.S. Treasury Dept.
The Opportunity Zone program was part of the Tax Cut & Jobs Act of 2017...where those with unrealized capital gains in stocks and mutual funds can defer paying tax on gains-- by investing in an Opportunity Zone.
These monies become “Opportunity Funds” which are used to improve the tracts involved in the program. Minnesota has a total of 128 tracts. Investors that remain invested for 10 years see tax liability for any gains related to the investment (zone) reduced to nothing, or incrementally reduced if less than a decade.
North Branch also is home to one of four “shovel ready” development sites in the GPS region. The shovel ready parcel was literally visible from where the South Korea ministers were hosted, in the Lakes Region EMS headquarters Community Room.
The KITA delegates were made aware there are also two technical colleges within the GPS45:93 area, Anoka Ramsey in Cambridge and Pine Tech in Pine City.
The railroad continues to function in North Branch connected to northern MN rail line networks, KITA officials heard.
KITA reps noted the new direct flight routes, from Seoul to Minneapolis St Paul Airport that open in April. North Branch Mayor Kirsten Hagen Kennedy added that the regional airport in Rush City then, is just a few minutes away.
Han Koo Yeo, South Korea Minister Counselor, said there is “great potential” for building a trade relationship with Minnesota. He said there’s already trade in MN agricultural goods in the hundreds of millions annually. Auto parts and machinery trade is strong with Minnesota. Han-Koo Yeo, from Washington D.C. Korean Embassy, said the goal in coming to Minnesota was to renew relations with the MN-South Korea delegation. A Rosenbauer America company official, Dan Kellogg, spoke briefly about the fire equipment manufacturer’s assets in Wyoming, just south of North Branch. He displayed a photo of a rig just-arrived in South Korea that Rosenbauer built.
The delegates also learned a little bit about local firms Polaris and Andersen Windows.
The visitors stressed that all types of trade are being looked into. Said Han-Koo Yeo, “... now is an opportune time to increase trade.”
The audience members also heard that Minnesota in geography and climate-wise is very much like Korea, and the visitors very much enjoyed driving through Chisago County sight-seeing. They had also met with Metropolitan Airport Commission, medical device manufacturers and other major industries in the Twin Cities.
On a somber note-- the ministers of trade said Koreans are very aware of the number of Minnesota servicepersons who fought and sacrificed on behalf of South Korea in the Korea Conflict, adding “We appreciate their contribution.”