Lee Lynch is a grateful Minnesota millionaire.
After college and Army service, Lynch and Jack Carmichael started a small advertising agency in 1962.
It was such an out-of-the-box success that Carmichael moonlighted driving a cab at night and Lynch taught afternoons at a St. Paul reform school.
"I am grateful for that experience," said Lynch, 81. "Half of the girls were pregnant, some by family members."
Lynch, who grew up in the working class in Belle Plaine, developed empathy for folks who drew the short stick, including disadvantaged kids he supported during his career, along with social-justice and environmental causes.
And Carmichael Lynch eventually became one of the biggest agencies in the Twin Cities.
Lynch, an Irish-loving guy whose humor and casual nature belie keen business instincts, built Carmichael Lynch to a $45 million company. He sold it in 2005 to Interpublic Group. Lynch also is an owner of the Historic Theatre Group that manages several Hennepin Avenue theaters. And he was a successful commercial real estate investor with business partners.
"Minnesota is amazing," Lynch said the other day. "We are the 'client state' of the future."
Always an optimist, Lynch recently wrote a book, "Amazing Minnesota." He spent $100,000-plus to produce this colorful work that should get a "thank you" from the Minnesota Business Partnership and economic developers.
It extols Minnesota virtues, from our disproportionately high number of Fortune 500 companies to an entrepreneurial culture that has received accolades from national publications to a world-class workforce; growing diversity and immigration that we need to enrich our culture and grow our economy; a fast-growing green-energy sector that generates 25 percent of our power, and ample water and a globe-spanning water-management and conservation industry serving a water-short world.
And Minnesota has vast attractions and a growing, four-season tourism economy.
"Amazing Minnesota" is a witty 263 pages of beautiful photos, facts and insights from Grand Marais to Rochester.
"It's hard to get talent to come to the Twin Cities, but once they are here it's almost impossible to get them to leave," according to Robert Macdonald, the dean of the Russell Reynolds Minneapolis executive search office.
What the heck, Lynch reasons: Southern California is a waterless desert beset by soaring temperatures and wildfires. Florida, Texas and the Southern coastal states are coping with climate change and increasingly violent hurricanes that cost the federal government hundreds of billions of dollars.
And Minnesota is a relatively high-tax state that pays its way for education and infrastructure and sends more dollars to Washington, D.C., than it gets back. It's also a high-yield state for commerce. And it's going to get better, predicts Lynch.
Lynch takes head-on the Great Minnesota Tax Debate, after noting that the state has been recognized by national studies and publications for its above-average economic growth and entrepreneurial climate.
The Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence ranks Minnesota ninth in total state-local tax burden.
Conservatives say we lose too many affluent retirees to low-tax Florida and elsewhere.
Critics predicted that the ultra-affluent would flee after Gov. Mark Dayton in 2013 secured the passage of a fourth income tax tier of 9.85 percent on individuals who make more than $156,000 a year.
At my request last week, the Minnesota Department of Revenue produced a report that showed the number of Minnesota taxpayers with federally adjusted income of more than $1 million peaked at 6,433 in 2012, fell to 5,427 in 2013, and has since increased by 27 percent to a record 6,892 in 2015, the last year for which those statistics are available.
Lynch argues that we underinvest in the University of Minnesota and the state university system, including community colleges, which do a lot of the research that has led to new innovations in health care, technology, agriculture and other economic fuel, as well as train high school graduates for careers.
Lynch lauds our accomplishments, our human and other resources, our vibrant business, sports, and arts culture, including the little-known fact that the Orpheum Theatre is the fifth in the world for ticket sales and often-busy Target Center is in the top-20 ticket-sellers for music events.
The book (amazingmn.com) is endorsed by the likes of retired Minnesota Vikings star and Supreme Court Justice Alan Page, businesswoman and civic leader Marilyn Carlson Nelson, former Gov. Arne Carlson and business lawyer Sam Kaplan.
Minnesota can do better, including workforce development that will keep our economy strong and growing.
I'm grateful to Lynch for compiling an impressive, in-color list of Minnesota attributes.
Neal St. Anthony has been a Star Tribune business columnist and reporter since 1984. He can be contacted at email@example.com.