Gov. Mark Dayton seemed to be channeling his old boss, the late Gov. Rudy Perpich, as he announced Wednesday a plan for up to $100 million more in State Investment Board cash to be deposited in Minnesota community banks.
The idea sprang from a small-business lending task force headed by Minneapolis attorney and banker Tom Borman, who served Perpich as commerce commissioner for two years. Dayton was Perpich’s energy and economic development commissioner for four years.
Their plan sounded like vintage Perpich: Redirect existing state investment (mostly pension) funds for the sake of jobs, jobs, jobs. State investment Board Executive Director Howard Bicker explained that a recent change in FDIC rules allows the state to deposit up to $100 million more than it has previously in Minnesota-based community banks, which offer a better return to the funds than U.S. Treasury bonds do now.
With the increased state deposits, those banks would receive a gubernatorial letter asking that they turn the funds into loans to local entrepreneurs. No requirement is contemplated, Dayton and Borman said, because none is necessary. Small-business lending is what the state’s 300 community banks do best, they said.
Dayton calls his work as state economic development commissioner “the best job I’ve ever had in government.” He’s been reprising that job this fall at nine local hearings on job creation and Tuesday’s Jobs Summit in St. Paul. Wednesday he rattled off his administration’s seven priorities for spurring job creation; spurring lending to small businesses is but one on the list. I checked afterward, and Rudy’s portrait was smiling.