Minnesota Equine Development Coalition Formed

In an effort to build Minnesota's equine industry and accelerate rural economic development, Racino Now, an organization promoting the development of so-called "racinos" in that state, has approved a new name and elected new officers to focus its work on supporting Minnesota's horse industry.

Under its new name, the Equine Development Coalition of Minnesota (EDCoM) will replace Racino Now in advocating on behalf of horse owners and breeders, horse racing fans, and the tens of thousands of Minnesotans who depend on a healthy equine industry in that state.

Jeff Hilger, a longtime Minnesota business owner, Thoroughbred breeder, and owner of Bleu Valley Farm in Stillwater, has been named president of EDCoM. Rosemary Higgins, a Quarter Horse owner from Princeton, will serve as executive director. Quinn Cheney has been retained as the lobbyist for EDCoM in St. Paul.

"The equine industry touches all 87 counties in our state," said Hilger. "It will be an enormous economic engine for Minnesota if legislators are willing to make the same investment in horse racing purses and equine development that other states have successfully made."

In 2004, Brian Buhr, PhD, director of the University of Minnesota's Department of Applied Economics and E. Fred Koller Chair in Management Information Systems, estimated that Minnesota's equine industry created a total economic impact of approximately $1 billion. Additionally, he noted that Minnesota could improve that economic impact with an increase in racing purses.

Increasing horse racing purses is important because it helps expand the entire industry: more horses, trainers, and breeders come to Minnesota, requiring more support from farmers, veterinarians, fence builders, and other businesses. The organization supports racino legislation, which would provide $135 million in new revenue for the state of Minnesota and make significant investments in the equine industry.

"Putting the new revenue aside, there is a much bigger picture here," said Hilger. "If our state is like the 12 other states that have passed racino legislation, it can more than double the dollar value of our equine industry. We are talking jobs here, for farmers, feed suppliers, veterinarians, fence and barn builders, and many other businesses. Larger purses will allow Minnesota breeders to be more competitive, attracting trainers, breeders, and owners and causing a ripple effect around the state."

Twelve states have approved racino legislation, and each of those states has experienced an increase in racing purses and equine development because of the legislation. Independent public surveys have shown that support among Minnesotans for racino legislation exceeds 75%.

"In the short term, we have a vehicle that allows the Legislature to address a few of the toughest problems facing the state, and in the long-run increase jobs and help an agricultural industry that has been hard hit," Hilger explained. "Simple logic dictates that it is time to move this economic engine forward."

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