Steve Anderson, a longtime reader who lives in Eau Claire, near Minnesota’s Twin Cities,emailed a copy of a recent story in the St. Paul Pioneer Press with a note he attached, “So different than Wisconsin!”
The story told of Minnesota’s pitch to giant online retailer Amazon to locate its much-ballyhooed “second” headquarters in the state. Amazon is in the process of evaluating “bids” from cities and states across the country and then will decide where it wants to locate, bringing with it the promise of 50,000 jobs.
The state’s Democratic governor, Mark Dayton, revealed that his state’s proposal doesn’t include the gimmicks and gadgetry and all the sensational public relations stuff, nor does it contain any offers of massive tax breaks.
Instead, it lays out the reasons the state’s educational, cultural and transportation amenities would make Minnesota an ideal place for Amazon to locate its $5 billion headquarters, the paper reported.
Now that’s refreshing in a day when local and state governments stumble all over themselves to offer untold amounts of taxpayer money to giant, already highly profitable corporations to convince them to move or build a new plant in their jurisdiction.
It seems that all the big-shot recipients of this corporate welfare need do is sit back and see who throws the most money and tax breaks their way.
Minnesota is banking on the premise that some corporations actually value more than money when making their decisions on where best to locate. It’s what has worked for them in recent years, which saw our neighboring state soar ahead of ours in everything from economic development to job creation.
Interestingly, while Wisconsin Republicans focused on cutting back public education, making huge cuts to the state’s world-class university system and passing draconian social legislation, Minnesota actually increased taxes on the wealthy, spent more on education and the University of Minnesota, and has since left Wisconsin in the dust economically.
Minnesota’s Dayton made it clear, however, that his state won’t dismiss out-of-hand some tax help for a corporation like Amazon. When and if the time comes when tax considerations weigh heavily in a final decision, the state will sit down and negotiate a deal that’s fair to all.
“The regional assets that we possess here and the Minneapolis/St. Paul region are exactly the kind of strengths that they’re looking for in a place to live, work and raise their families,” said the CEO of Minnesota’s equivalent of Wisconsin’s Chamber of Commerce, Michael Langley.
Even one of the Minnesota Legislature’s Republican leaders, Rep. Pat Garofalo, commented, “If Amazon is looking to see where they can get the most free cash, then they should look somewhere else.”
How different an attitude than what is exhibited by Wisconsin’s current leadership. Scott Walker and his Republican colleagues in the Legislature couldn’t open the state’s bank accounts far and fast enough to convince the Foxconn Corp. to locate in the state.
And not only did Wisconsin government hand a multibillion-dollar international conglomerate $3 billion in tax breaks and subsidies, it cut back environmental regulations and promised Foxconn even more aid from local governments in southeast Wisconsin.
It’s often been said that enlightened businesses make location decisions as much on the quality of schools, standards of living, quality of infrastructure, and opportunities for recreation, arts and entertainment as they do on tax rates and regulations that protect the quality of life.
Minnesota’s “bid” for the Amazon headquarters may not succeed with Amazon, especially when other states (Illinois is offering about $2 billion, for example) and cities are dangling goodies for the headquarters.
But chances are the state will continue to do just as well as it has without giving away its taxpayers’ money and mortgaging the state treasury as Wisconsin just did.