ND, SD, Wis. vying for Minn. workers, businesses

9:18 PM, Aug 6, 2013   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS - The competition among Minnesota and neighboring states for workers and businesses is heating up.

There are three states that have been lobbing their pitches across the Minnesota borders, both east and west.

Lawmakers and business leaders say differences in tax policies drove their recent decisions to intensify the push for workers and businesses.

In Fergus Falls, there is a yellow sign with bold black letters, which reads "NORTH DAKOTA OPEN FOR BUSINESS." Actually it screams more than reads.

"It's 15 feet by 40 feet. You can't miss it," North Dakota Chamber of Commerce President Andy Peterson exclaims with pride. "We put that up as a result of what's happening here in North Dakota. We truly are open for business on so many fronts -- a tax, legal and regulatory environment that businesses like."

In Hudson, the "Wisconsin Welcomes You" sign is massive and below it there's a message that says "Open for Business."

"When we say open for business, we mean it so much that we put it right up on the state sign," well-known Republican Gov. Scott Walker told KARE 11. "For us, we like to make a competitive case that we're turning things around. We're moving in the right direction. We're moving our state forward."

South Dakota brought a personal pitch across the border as Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard spent time at the Mall of America trying to recruit highly-skilled workers out of Minnesota.

"Minnesota is our best hunting ground," he said.

The South Dakota Department of Labor reports 1 in 5 participants in the Dakota Roots program move to the state from Minnesota -- the amount totals more than 3,000 residents since the program started six and a half years ago.

"It's easier to move across a border than it is to pick up and move across the country," South Dakota Department of Labor's Dawn Dovre said.

All three states tout current economic conditions and recent tax and spending legislation regarding businesses and employees as their main selling points.

KARE 11 took those arguments to Art Rolnick at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute.

"Proof is in the pudding. People can vote with their feet and companies vote with their feet," he explained.

Walker is taking a wait and see approach.

"So who knows? That's (recent legislation) just going into effect in both states. We'll see the difference going forward," he said.

Rolnick, who spent 40 years as a VP, researcher and economist with the Federal Reserve Bank, says Minnesota's population has been steady or growing for years, and he points to the long list of Fortune 500 companies based in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. He also believes some border competition can be a good thing.

"When they compete by who can have the lowest taxes with the best public infrastructure, the best schools, that's the good kind of competition," Rolnick said.

Real Gross Domestic Product is used in many state by state business comparisons. According to the US Commerce Department, North Dakota's GDP has grown 13.4 percent in 2012. Fueled in large part by the oil boom, it represents the nation's only double digit increase. The same study shows South Dakota's GDP grew .2 percent. Wisconsin's increased 1.5 percent and Minnesota gained 3.5 percent in 2012.

A number of national publications and media groups do their own studies, ranking states by looking at things like cost of doing business, economy, quality of life, education and labor supply.

CNBC's "Top States for Business" study ranks South Dakota No. 1, North Dakota No. 3, Minnesota is No. 15 and Wisconsin was rated No. 22.

Forbes has a "Best States for Business" list and it rates North Dakota No 3, South Dakota No. 12, Minnesota No. 20 and Wisconsin No. 42.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, suggested we talk to Katie Clark Sieben, his Commissioner of the Department of Employment and Economic Development. "We have the 5th fastest growing economy in the country and I think that's why the spotlight is on Minnesota currently," the commissioner told KARE 11.

One thing all law makers and state business leaders seem to agree on is the competition is heating up, as states strengthen their pitch to attract businesses large and small as well as highly skilled, trained and educated workers. That's the way the signs seem to be pointing.

"I think we're competing so well that other states are interested in our talented residents in the state and in companies that are thriving here in the state," Clark Sieben concluded.

(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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