In the Spotlight

News & Features
Mark Dayton: Economic Development
By Karen Boothe
August 24, 1998

Click for audio RealAudio 2.0 14.4
Part of Election '98

PEOPLE LIVING IN MINNESOTA'S RURAL AREAS, especially along the Iron Range, are wondering how long the improved economy will last. Farmers are facing a growing crisis because of low crop prices, and small towns are losing the best and brightest to larger cities.

Mark Dayton says federal price supports for farmers is an issue for the federal government to resolve, but he says there's a lot the state can do to advocate fair farm policies.

Still, he says a solid economy is ones that's diverse.

Dayton: So I think the state ought to come in and say, "What can we do here that would be strategic and beneficial, and might really make a difference and that we can do right now?"

He recalls an old mantra that became familiar to him in the late '70s and mid-80s, when he was the state's Commissioner of Economic Development under the late governor Rudy Perpich.

Dayton: Jobs, jobs, jobs.
Dayton says it's the number one priority for any governor. But he says when the state negotiates deals and contracts with private business, officials must insist on the kind of return needed for a wise investment.
Dayton: Like the Northwest Airlines deal, which was a great idea. But unfortunately, the State of Minnesota just tossed them what they needed and didn't come in and insist upon the kind of return we should have received. And when they did keep a promise, which they kept in Duluth. But now in Chisholm, where they put in reservation clerks for seven dollars an hour instead of machinists at $18 or $20 an hour with benefits, the state did nothing about it.

Dayton doesn't support all state bailouts for companies, but he doesn't like the term "corporate welfare" either. He says Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts can help spur economic development in areas of the state. They are zones where cities let companies use their own property taxes to develop and expand.

Dayton: I think the targeted tax incentives to induce businesses to do certain projects which have economic benefits versus not doing them or doing them somewhere else - I believe that's an appropriate public expenditure. Again, if you've done the analysis and belieive the public benefit is greater than the public cost.

On the controversial subject of public money for sports stadiums, Dayton isn't willing to play the game.

Dayton: Sports stadiums should, in my view, be subject to the same economic evaluation. But under any scenario I've seen so far, they're going to fall decidely on the side of, "There's not enough economic gain to justify this public cost."

But another blue-ribbon commission has been named by the governor to study more ways to fund a new sports stadium, and a plan is expected to fall into the administration's hands before the next legislative session begins. Dayton says, if elected governor, it wouldn't be his first priority of the new session.