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Norm Coleman: Economic Development
By Martin Kaste
August 24, 1998

Click for audio RealAudio 2.0 14.4
Part of Election '98

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IS NORM COLEMAN'S ISSUE. On the campaign trail he constantly points to what he considers the economic renaissance he's brought to St. Paul.

Coleman: Ecolab is expanding downtown. Lawson Software - bringing in a thousand jobs downtown. St. Paul Companies is talking about another major expansion downtown. There is a sense that ... What happens is that sense of confidence and hope, you get investment.

Democrats on the other hand are hoping to use that same economic development record to defeat him. Taking their cue from last year's public outcry against state funding for a Twins stadium, they're focusing on Coleman's hockey arena project in St. Paul, which depends in part on state and city funding. The DFLers are trying to paint Coleman as a friend of overpaid professional athletes, but Coleman says he's proud of what he's done.

Coleman: The return of the NHL! That was about hope! It was about hockey, but it's also about a new arena that'll bring as many as 1.4 million people to the core downtown. And, by the way, without any St. Paul property-tax dollars and the help from the state in an interest-free loan. We're getting a business that's coming in and generating between $3 and $8 million a year in taxes. But it's not just about that, it's about hope!

Last year, the Minnesota Twins pressured the Legislature for a state-subsidized ballpark, saying the team couldn't stay here without one. In the face of intense public hostility for the idea, the Minnesota House voted down what was billed at the time as a last-chance stadium financing plan. Now, almost one year later, team owner Carl Pohlad has agreed to keep the Twins here for at least another two years, even without a new stadium. But most politicians expect he'll be back at the state capitol after the election, hat in hand.

The reception Pohlad gets will depend in large part on who's governor. Norm Coleman says if he's in the governor's office, he'll treat the Twins like any other business.

Coleman: To put it in a special category because it's sports ... Look at the community asset, and then figure out if there's a way to keep it here that's fiscally prudent!

Coleman says his political foes are distorting his record on economic development in general, and exagerrating his attitude toward sports teams in particular. He says he picks economic development projects most people can support, and he says his attitude toward economics reflects the will of the majority of taxpayers.

Coleman: I fought ACORN when they had a so-called jobs ordinance that would've destroyed small business in this city. Sixty percent of the people who voted supported my position. I haven't lost a major policy initiative in City Council - they're almost all Democrats - because my style of leadership brings people together.

If Norm Coleman is elected, and if the Twins stadium comes up again, Coleman says he'll be careful not to make the mistakes of the last stadium campaign. The Pohlads and Governor Carlson lost a lot of public support for the stadium by appearing heavy-handed - a situation only made worse by Pohlad's threats to move the team. Next time around - if there is a next time - Coleman promises not to, in his words, ram a plan down people's throats.