Our view: Minnesota can do more to boost bizHeadlines have been grim of late for Target, the department store chain that Minnesota long has been proud to call its own. A week ago the Minneapolis-based retailer announced it would stop offering health insurance to part-time workers. Then news broke that 475 Target employees would be laid off. That was on top of 700 positions eliminated over the past half-year. And of course there was the Christmastime security breach that allowed hackers to steal credit card information from some 40 million Target customers.
Headlines have been grim of late for Target, the department store chain that Minnesota long has been proud to call its own. A week ago the Minneapolis-based retailer announced it would stop offering health insurance to part-time workers. Then news broke that 475 Target employees would be laid off. That was on top of 700 positions eliminated over the past half-year. And of course there was the Christmastime security breach that allowed hackers to steal credit card information from some 40 million Target customers.
Concern about Minnesota’s iconic corporation has to be high in St. Paul. So what has the state done to help?
“I haven’t talked to them directly. (But) that’s a good point; I should do that,” Gov. Mark Dayton said in an exclusive interview Friday in Duluth with the News Tribune editorial board. “I’ve (written myself) a note here. I should have called them already. But I’m not aware of anything the state can do to make a difference.”
A little support can go a long way.
Don’t misunderstand. The News Tribune Opinion page isn’t sharing this exchange to embarrass our governor in any way or to make him look bad. The intent is to illustrate a question: Is Minnesota, particularly the Legislature and Gov. Dayton and his administration, doing all that can be done and all that needs to be done to shore up the state’s business climate and to make sure our reputation as a good place for business is as robust as our desire for industry, jobs and prosperity?
Minnesotans certainly had to be wondering about that last year when the Legislature approved $2.1 billion in tax increases, including taxes on businesses that aren’t charged by other states and a retroactive hike in the individual income tax rate. Charlie Weaver, executive director of the Minnesota Business Partnership, called it “the most anti-jobs Legislature” he had ever seen.”
Dayton has vowed to do away with those business-to-business taxes that shouldn’t have been passed by the Legislature in the first place and that he shouldn’t have signed into law. With the budget showing a surplus, “There’s no excuse not to,” Dayton said.
That’s good, but Minnesota’s anti-biz rep, whether deserved or not, continues to hang over the state. Smelling blood in the water, North Dakota, to Minnesota’s west, placed billboards along its border declaring itself “open for business;” and Wisconsin, to Minnesota’s east, launched a campaign to steal away Minnesota businesses.
“My fellow governor to the east has got one of the poorest job-growth records of any state over the last two, three years, (while) Minnesota has had one of the best. We (had the) fourth-highest percent increase in jobs in 2012,” Dayton countered. “We have more jobs in Minnesota today than ever before in the state’s history. We’ve added almost 134,000 jobs in the last three years since I took office. They’re just not doing that well in Wisconsin, so I think the governor there says, ‘We’d better show we’re making every effort.’ ”
About North Dakota, Dayton said, “They can put up a sign, ‘open for business.’ We’ve been opening businesses for the last three years. And we’ve been opening them at a faster rate. And we’ve got some more coming down the pike that are going to make people’s eyes open.”
All that may be true — and Minnesotans can be thankful if it is — but the perception of a poor business climate persists. If we’re doing the good job Dayton claims and that certain numbers suggest, why are other states still actively looking to steal away our
Clearly, more can be done to promote Minnesota as a business-friendly place.
Sometimes it’s as simple as making a phone call. Or thinking twice before passing another tax.