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Our View: Heed mixed biz barometer

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The just-out annual barometer of Minnesota’s business climate and economic prospects is “a mixed landscape for fostering statewide economic growth,” the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce stated about its fifth-annual undertaking.

On one hand, the 2020 Business Benchmarks report highlights positives like improved highway performance, lower workers-comp costs, and an influx of talent in Minnesota from other states and nations.

On the other hand, rising tax burdens, increasing health care costs, and an overall economic performance that has Minnesota lagging behind national averages are all “troubling,” the report said. Specifically, job creation and GDP lag behind national averages here in the Gopher State.

Income per capita is $57,515 in Minnesota, compared to the national average of $54,448, as News Tribune business reporter Kelly Busche reported Monday.

“Data show that other states are outpacing Minnesota’s economic growth,” chamber President Doug Loon said in a statement. “The tight labor market, high taxes, and regulatory burdens may be hampering economic performance.”

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The fifth-annual business benchmarks were released at the chamber’s annual meeting on Nov. 21. Comprehensive, objective data were compiled for the report from state and federal agencies and elsewhere.

In addition to the good and the bad, “Some results are more mixed,” the chamber said to media following the report’s public’s release, including to the News Tribune Opinion page.

“Exports are up but subject to uncertainty in this political environment,” the chamber said. “Workforce is one of the state’s top strengths, but the state faces critical labor shortages and education outcomes that impede worker preparedness.”

Minnesota business leaders were highlighted in the report, including Laura Ekholm, the executive vice president of L&M Radiator in Hibbing. She said the state’s burdensome regulatory landscape is an increasing challenge for Minnesota businesses.

“We aren’t just a Minnesota company. If something adds costs to doing business in Minnesota, we won’t look favorably on that,” Ekholm said. “There are a lot of good companies in Minnesota. We need to keep them here.”

The report is a lot to digest, especially with such a mixed bag of indicators. But a close examination of its findings by our business, political, and other leaders and decision-makers can go a long way toward making informed, wise decisions. The annual report can be a roadmap for plotting solid strategies to boost Minnesota’s business climate, increase our ability to attract and retain jobs, and improve our state’s and local economies.

“This report helps deepen our understanding of Minnesota’s economic competitiveness,” said Loon. “Minnesota continues to be a leader in innovation. Improving the overall business climate will attract companies and cement this legacy of innovation for generations.”

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