Minnesota’s Historic Tax Credit is officially extended through 2022, saving this valuable program from extinction. The tax credit provides a refundable income tax credit equal to 20% of qualified rehabilitation expenses made to buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places and used for income-producing purposes. The $3.5 billion generated for our state and the 18,660 jobs created have directly supported the growth and prosperity of our state. The 144 buildings that have utilized the tax credit invest in their communities every single day.
We knew that preserving the Historic Tax Credit from the June 30, 2021, sunset was a top priority of ours and set out to build a thriving coalition and movement to do so.
So How Did We Get Here?
Rethos’s efforts in advocating for the Historic Tax Credit have existed for over 20 years, and we were key in the initial 2010 passage. This year’s legislative session posed unique challenges, with a COVID-19 relief-related agenda and entirely remote proceedings. Expanding our efforts to include a robust number of stakeholders to prevent the tax credit from expiring was necessary.
Unique from the beginning, The RevitalizeMN coalition constituted a diverse group of stakeholders, including Rethos, Winthrop & Weinstine, and New History. Alta Via Consulting developed our marketing strategy and media content. Our generous sponsors, including Sherman Associates, Dominium, Commerce Bank, and Weis Builders, were key in supporting our efforts. They represented the areas of developers, bankers and investors, general contractors and specialty construction firms, labor unions, architecture, and engineering firms, and historical consultants. Their generosity allowed us to have a statewide reach.
The coalition name, RevitalizeMN, captured the spirit of our campaign, and our slogan, “Creating Jobs and Rebuilding Communities,” embodies the impact of the Historic Tax Credit.
What Did We Do During The 2021 Legislative Session?
Storytelling and sharing the proven record of the Historic Tax Credit was at the center of our efforts. We spent the first portion of the legislative session reaching out to legislators and educating them on the Historic Tax Credit’s successes in Minnesota. At the same time, we leveraged a statewide, grassroots advocacy, and media campaign. We had grassroots support from every corner of the state, with hundreds of Minnesotans reaching out to their legislators on behalf of RevitalizeMN. Over 50 stories ran in newspapers and on television networks about our efforts, reaching over 5,000,000 Minnesotans, and we led the nation in state Historic Tax Credit-related media. The media coverage spotlighting our efforts positioned us as a timely and crucial piece of policy that the state was watching.
The Key Moments of Our Campaign
From the beginning, our bills enjoyed strong, bipartisan support. Authored this session by Representative Cheryl Youakim (DFL, Hopkins) and Senator Jeremy Miller (R, Winona), our bills quickly grew to encompass 11 additional coauthors in the House and 4 in the Senate.
During our hearings in the House and Senate Taxes Committee, a passionate group of advocates shared about the impacts of the Historic Tax Credit. Twin Cities developer and Rethos board member, Chris Sherman, shared the success of the Historic Tax Credit in revitalizing Minneapolis neighborhoods, with successful projects such as Riverside Plaza and Thresher Square. Advocates in Greater Minnesota spoke to how the tax credit could benefit the 1911 Jasper School in Jasper, Minnesota. These stories demonstrated the statewide impact of how historic rehabilitation is an investment in communities, economic development, and job creation.
In April, we passed a huge milestone, with the inclusion of the Historic Tax Credit in the Senate and House Omnibus Taxes bills. The House recommended an 8-year extension with no cap, and the Senate recommended a 1-year extension with a $14 million cap. This discrepancy meant that both bodies recognized the critical nature of the Historic Tax Credit and the urgency to extend it but had different budget levels to contend with.
In late May, the RevitalizeMN coalition and our statewide partners held a press conference on the steps of the Minnesota Capitol as legislators were finalizing their bills. Our speakers included state legislators, union representatives, and developers. The press conference coincided with a letter to the editor published in the Star Tribune, where over 50 business leaders across Minnesota voiced their support for the Historic Tax Credit’s extension.
What Comes Next?
The 2021 legislative session may have come to a close, but we are not going anywhere! After taking time to celebrate and catch our breath, we will continue to advocate for a prolonged sunset extension next session. Potential projects statewide continue to hang in the balance. The State Historic Preservation Office reported that they approved 27 allocation certificates in May and June 2021, allowing projects to become eligible to use the Historic Tax Credit. This number of approvals is higher than what is normally submitted in a year, demonstrating the urgency and interest for a continued Historic Tax Credit.
The RevitalizeMN campaign supports our mission of leading and inspiring people to connect with historic places and promoting community vitality. We are excited to continue.
Graphics by RevitalizeMN