A view from North Dakota: Minnesota can learn from North Dakota’s business modelMy move (from Duluth) to North Dakota and position at the state’s chamber of commerce has allowed me to better understand how and why North Dakota is capturing the nation’s attention with record economic growth and low unemployment rates.
By: Andy Peterson, for the News Tribune
Duluth is my hometown. Although I moved away for nearly 20 years, I returned and spent another 14 years living and working in Duluth. I served as director of public policy for the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce, and it was a hard decision to leave. Friends, family and history drew me to stay; however, life changes and so do opportunities. Almost two years ago my wife and I moved to North Dakota and I now serve as president and CEO of the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce.
My move to North Dakota and position at the state’s chamber has allowed me to better understand how and why North Dakota is capturing the nation’s attention with record economic growth and low unemployment rates. While the state’s energy industry garners worldwide attention and is a key contributor to North Dakota’s economic success, only 25 percent of the state’s tax revenue comes from the oil and gas industry. In addition, of the more than 24,000 jobs available in North Dakota, nearly 66 percent are outside of the oil-producing counties. Agriculture remains strong, technology businesses are growing, tourism continues to thrive and North Dakota is a national leader in manufacturing growth.
North Dakota’s long-term approach to economic and business-development policy is and should be a model for the nation. The North Dakota Chamber has worked tirelessly with business leaders and state and elected officials to create and maintain a friendly business climate, limit state spending, lower taxes and set aside a healthy budget surplus for a rainy day.
Our state leaders get it. Although times are good, they are focused on promoting the upside of business development and understand that collaboration among industry and government leaders is a key component of the state’s success.
In early 2012, the North Dakota Office of the Governor and the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce launched the 2020 & Beyond initiative, aimed at gathering input from the state’s business leaders, legislators and residents to map out a 20-year development plan for the state. This will help ensure North Dakota continues to experience economic success and remains focused on creating and promoting programs and initiatives that foster additional business growth.
North Dakota’s congressional delegation, governor, legislators and state officials are easily accessible and respond quickly to the concerns and needs of the business community. In addition, both sides of the state’s political aisle have similar goals regarding business development and investments. They work together more often than not to create a regulatory, tax and legal environment where businesses thrive.
Business regulations are kept to a minimum, and regulators work to get businesses permits in a timely and uncomplicated fashion. Just one example is Marvin Windows and Doors, a Minnesota company that recognized the business-friendly regulatory and tax climate in North Dakota and opened plants in Fargo, West Fargo and Grafton. North Dakota is now home to nearly 1,000 Marvin employees.
The state also is making solid investments in important components like infrastructure and education. Higher education has become an economic driver for the state, not only educating future employees but also helping to advance industries. Initiatives like the Centers of Excellence, Work Keys, Succeed 2020 and Operation Intern all focus on building a strong work force to support the state’s growing industries.
North Dakota residents and businesses are benefiting from more than $1 billion in cuts to personal, corporate and property taxes, the most in the state’s history, as a result of the cooperation of our legislators and business leaders. Every North Dakotan will pay nearly 20 percent less in state taxes in 2012 while at the same time the state will enjoy budget surpluses and healthy infrastructure investments.
A global focus also remains important to business growth in the state, and North Dakota continues to look to the world market as a means to expand business opportunities. The state’s exports have increased 300 percent since 2000.
North Dakota’s economic success demonstrates the proven benefits of a friendly business climate. There’s no reason why the North Dakota model can’t be duplicated elsewhere. Therefore, now more than ever, the work of the Duluth and Minnesota chambers is essential. I encourage Minnesota businesses to join their efforts to create a more competitive business climate in Minnesota.
Andy Peterson is president and CEO of the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce. With the help of staff, he wrote this exclusively for the News Tribune.