WASHINGTON -- Healthy state economies will play a critical role in future job creation, but Minnesota does not rank among the nation's top 10 "growth performers," according to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce study rolled out Monday by Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
"It's not surprising at all," the Minnesota Republican said during the report's unveiling in the capital. "It's something I've been talking about for years. Minnesota needs to be more competitive as it relates to jobs."
Pawlenty, eyeing a run for president in 2012, was part of a "summit" of governors and business leaders bashing governmental regulations and touting the economic advantages of their states.
While Pawlenty had plenty to say about the state's educated workforce, diversified economy and leading role in medical technology, he suggested that taxes need to be brought in line with global business realities.
"Costs need to be competitive," he said. "Minnesota has some other advantages, but we can't be so smug about how special we think we are to price ourselves out of the market."
Minnesota ranked high in workforce development and training, but was not in the top 10 on pro-business "performance" metrics such as taxes and regulation, entrepreneurship and innovation, exports and infrastructure.
"There's a pretty clear pattern as to where jobs are going and where they're not," Pawlenty said. "And Minnesota needs to be more competitive."
Much of the pro-business conference was focused on the ills of high taxes and regulation, and on the blessings of free enterprise. But Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour canceled and Texas Gov. Rick Perry was late, both because of pressing needs in their states as a result of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Perry warned against a "knee-jerk reaction" to the spill and raised the possibility that it might have been "an act of God."
Pawlenty said his concerns about regulations are not based on the "content and substance" of government oversight, but on the lengthy and cumbersome processes that can hamper business. "There are times and circumstances when regulations play a role," he said. "But they need to be timely, modern and fair."
The chamber study singled out North Dakota, with its low unemployment and "recession resistance," as a top "overall performer" in the nation. In the Midwest, South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa also ranked in the top 10.
Minnesota came in for praise for its expanded research and development tax credits, along with last year's 61,000 new business filings, a record for the state. The state also got credit as a leading financial center, with an internationally recognized bioscience industry and a pioneering renewable energy sector.
Kevin Diaz is a correspondent in the Star Tribune Washington bureau.