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Skip Humphrey: Economic Development
By Laura McCallum
August 24, 1998

Click for audio RealAudio 2.0 14.4
Part of Election '98

AS HUMPHREY SEES IT, SEVERAL FACTORS ARE necessary for economic development - if businesses have well-trained workers, competitive tax rates, good transportation, and Internet access, they can provide quality jobs anywhere in the state. Although Minnesota's unemployment rate is at an all-time low, there are pockets of high joblessness, and Humphrey says the state can make it more attractive for businesses to locate in rural communities and inner-city neighborhoods.

Humphrey: These days in Gaylord, Minnesota, you can have a company that's selling worldwide! So we need to make sure that there is the kind of electronic access and access to markets that companies need, so that's very important. Now the other part of that is - particularly in some of the more poverty-stricken areas - we need to make sure that businesses feel comfortable expanding in those areas. I'll tell you, I am very pleased to see the commitment that Honeywell has made, for example, in the Phillips neighborhood.
Humphrey's budget proposal includes funding for all of the areas he considers vital for economic development - public safety, technology, worker training, transportation, and business property tax relief. He's pledging to clean up more of the state's polluted industrial sites to stimulate growth in urban areas. Humphrey says when used properly, tax increment financing can be an effective development tool, but he thinks St. Paul city officials - including mayor and Republican opponent Norm Coleman - abused TIF to lure Lawson Software.
Humphrey: I don't think we're doing the right thing when we say, "Well, economic incentives are to put $40 million worth of tax dollars into moving a company from where? From Minneapolis to Saint Paul?" That's a misuse! I don't think public tax dollars should be used in St. Paul to steal a company from Minneapolis!
Humphrey also doesn't want to see competition between neighboring states for business - he says the Midwest should follow the example of states in the Northeast and South by banding together to lure companies to the region. But there's one area in which Humphrey thinks government should not invest - sports stadiums.
Humphrey : We don't need to be lining the pockets of wealthy sports-club owners with public dollars. I mean, you know, if they want to have their teams have new stadiums, well then they can darn well, you know, fund it themselves!
Humphrey suspects team owners are working together to pressure states across the country to build new arenas. As attorney general, he's investigating the Twins and major league baseball for possible antitrust violations, because they threatened to move the team if the state doesn't build a ballpark.