Editorial: Restrained Amazon offer right for Minnesota

Published 6:10 pm Thursday, September 28, 2017

At first and even second glance, Minnesota would seem like an ideal location for the headquarters campus that the online retail giant Amazon has announced it intends to build.

Seattle-based Amazon says it wants to build a “second headquarters’” in a metro area of at least 1 million people, with a strong higher education system, access to a tech-savvy workforce and a major international airport. Minnesota checks all those boxes, and a few others, as Gov. Mark Dayton has pointed out.

“We think we have a strong case to make because the first and foremost consideration is the quality of the people they would be able to hire,” Dayton said in announcing the state will submit a bid for the new Amazon complex.

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If all the criteria mentioned so far were important, Minnesota would be a prime contender.

However, as we all might guess, it’s likely that Amazon will find the pull of tax breaks, offers of free land, and low- or no-cost infrastructure to be more enticing than so-called quality of life measurements. Amazon has already said financial incentives will be a major factor in its decision.

And you can’t blame Amazon. The company, which appears to have no ceiling to its growth, plans to build a twin of its Seattle headquarters that would eventually employ 50,000 people. More than a few cities and states, especially those with less-than-vibrant economies, want to get in on that kind of potential. All kinds of baubles will be thrown Amazon’s way.

Minnesota, however, plans to submit a “restrained” offer, according to Dayton, and we think that’s the right approach. As the governor pointed out, Minnesota has two home-grown retail giants, Best Buy and Target, that directly compete with Amazon. Between them, the two companies employ 34,000 people in the state. That’s not quite what Amazon is promising, but it is a workforce that is already here, already trained, already on the job — and not subject to the whim of executives seeking huge giveaways.

While Dayton is being prudent, we need look no farther than across the Mississippi River for a different approach. Wisconsin officials have been touting their agreement with Taiwanese tech firm Foxconn to build a major new complex in the Badger State. The plant could employ up to 13,000 people on a 20-million-square-foot campus. To get that plum, Wisconsin had to give Foxconn a $3-billion package of tax breaks. The nonpartisan Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau has determined it will take Wisconsin taxpayers at least 25 years to break even on the deal.

So, let’s welcome Amazon execs with open arms on their sightseeing tour of Minnesota. Let’s talk up our state’s strengths, emphasizing our healthy, competitive economy, well-educated workforce and high quality of life. There’s no need to give away the store.

— Rochester Post Bulletin, Sept. 18

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