Here's some more grist for the taxes-hurt-the-business-climate debate.
The Twin Cities metro area ranks 5th on Site Selection Magazine's 2007 list of top metro areas for corporate expansion. With 74 projects, it was one expansion away from tying for 4th with the Houston metroplex. Last year, the Twin Cities ranked 15th among metro areas with populations larger than one million, about in line with its rank as the 16th largest U.S. metropolitan statistical area.
We'll offer our usual cautions about the validity of such state comparisons, and note that the rankings are based on numbers of projects, not type of industry, dollars of investment or number of quality jobs added. Still, Minnesota clearly had a better than average year.
The magazine also publishes a state business climate ranking that put Minnesota in 22nd place. That list is based on new projects, including number adjusted for state size and population, plus a survey of corporate real estate execs. The site selection criteria ranked most important by the real estate execs are shown in the sidebar. Workforce skills rank first.
The survey respondents rank the state much lower (30th) than actual expansion activity indicates, resulting in Minnesota's lower "business climate" standing. In previous years, the planners also scored the state lower than it has performed on the projects index.
Those who like to cite South Dakota as "proof" that low taxes attract business growth will also find something positive in the annual ranking. The Sioux City area ranked 1st among under-200,000 metros for the second straight year. Note, however, that the region includes communities in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota.
A Site Selection story said the Sioux City area is looking forward in 2008 to the construction of a giant oil refinery proposed by Hyperion Energy.
The company said it selected the Union County site because it "has a unique combination of characteristics that make it ideal" for the project. "Geographically, it is in the Canadian crude oil corridor, close to good rail and highway transport, in the vicinity of many major markets and has an abundance of water," Hyperion noted on its Web site.
The company also mentioned the pro-business attitude of South Dakota government officials and its low-tax climate.
With its biggest 2007 deals coming from ethanol, beef processing and other ag-related industries, it's clear the region's growth is based on more than workforce and tax considerations.
Debi Durham, president of both the chamber and the Siouxland Initiative, says it's no accident that the Sioux City area is being considered by major corporations. "You have to go back to a decade ago when the Siouxland Initiative stepped forward with a strategic plan for intermodal transportation, education, health care, quality of life and building our infrastructure," she says. "We worked on getting many industrial sites in our broader region certified. The fruit of that effort is the number one ranking in Site Selection."
That sounds like a familiar formula.