Some Minnesotans may be wringing their hands because the number of Fortune 500 companies with headquarters here has fallen to 18, down from as high as 22 in recent years, in part due to the departures of ATK and Nash Finch.
These losses continue a history of corporate icons departing the state or being acquired, including Honeywell, Northwest Airlines, Norwest Bank and the St. Paul Companies. Nevertheless, Minnesota still has an unusually high number of big-company headquarters per person. The Fortune 500 rankings do not include the state’s largest employer, Mayo Clinic, which is embarking on a major expansion. UnitedHealth Group moved up to No. 14 in the rankings, apparently undaunted by or benefiting from Obamacare, and Medtronic and St. Jude are doing well. In other words, Minnesota excels in medical devices, health insurance, and health care itself.
The Twin Cities is also a hub for water technology. Pentair would have been on the list after its recent acquisition of a Tyco valve division, but the company was incorporated in Switzerland with headquarters here, and companies like Ecolab, 3M and Osmonics are developing water technologies that will be used to quench thirst and support agriculture and industry around the planet. Minnesota is also a leader in food, with privately held Cargill, as well as General Mills and Hormel.
With all due respect to Mayo and Hormel in southern Minnesota, competition for big business these days does not take place among states, or even countries; it takes place among great cities. Minneapolis, Seattle, Denver and San Francisco are adding to their populations. Detroit and Cleveland are not. If Minneapolis (or if you prefer, the Twin Cities), continues investing in infrastructure and education, more Fortune 500 headquarters will be in our future.
V. John Ella is a Minneapolis attorney.