Mosaic Co.’s decision to move its headquarters from Plymouth to Florida left Minnesota business leaders to grapple with the loss of one of the state’s prized Fortune 500 companies.
Mosaic is one of the world’s largest fertilizer companies, mining potash and phosphate that it then processes into crop nutrients, with revenue exceeding $7.4 billion last year. Even though it maintains a relatively small presence in its soon-to-be-former home state of Minnesota, the decision is “disturbing,” said Charlie Weaver, executive director of the Minnesota Business Partnership. “It’s another blow to our ego in Minnesota,” he said. “We’re proud of our large Fortune 500 companies and the jobs they provide.”
Mosaic said late Monday that it will move the corporate headquarters to the Tampa area to be closer to its Florida phosphate mines and for long-term cost savings.
A behemoth in the agriculture industry, Mosaic employs a modest 150 people in Minnesota, mostly at its head office with a few workers running a storage facility in Savage. That’s a tiny fraction of the company’s more than 15,800-person global workforce.
Minnetonka-based Cargill, one of the world’s largest privately held companies, spun off its fertilizer operations in 2004 to create Mosaic but held onto a majority share. In 2011, Cargill divested its shares to free up cash for a Cargill family philanthropic effort without going public itself.
“They don’t have a significant footprint here, but they have a deep legacy here,” said Doug Loon, president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. “We don’t like to lose those types of businesses.”
Mosaic has whittled the employee count at its corporate headquarters from 300 to about 150 in the past four years. The company is not providing details on the impact the move will have on its Minnesota workers and declined requests for an interview Tuesday.
The company employs about 3,600 people in Florida, according to numbers released in September. Most of Mosaic’s workforce is in its potash and phosphate mines, which produce minerals for fertilizer. Its largest potash operations are in Saskatchewan while its biggest phosphate mines are in south-central Florida.
These Florida mines and processing facilities have come under Environmental Protection Agency scrutiny in recent years for air pollution, hazardous waste management practices and failing to notify local officials of a sinkhole that contaminated an aquifer.
Mosaic cites a number of reasons for moving to Florida. It operates a labor-intensive business, and all its physical processing facilities are outside of Minnesota. As a result of corporate layoffs, Mosaic has excess office space in Minnesota and Florida, the company said. The move will consolidate these functions under one roof and save money on real estate.
It will also save the company on travel expenses as a corporate headquarters in Florida gets leaders closer to the company’s growing business in South America. In 2014, Mosaic bought Archer Daniels Midland Co.’s fertilizer distribution business in Brazil and Paraguay for $350 million. Earlier this year, it completed the purchase of Brazil-based Vale Fertilizantes for about $2.5 billion, its largest acquisition ever.
Ben Pratt, Mosaic’s vice president of corporate affairs, said in an e-mail that the decision to move was primarily due to real estate and travel savings.
Weaver and Loon were quick to blame Minnesota’s tax structure, which they say can be unfriendly toward businesses. Whether Mosaic is leaving for tax or regulatory or other reasons, it gives the impression that Minnesota is not a competitive place to locate or expand a business, Weaver said.
“Overall it’s a wake-up call to policy leaders in the state that we cannot afford to become less competitive,” Weaver said. “This is a global, highly competitive economy that we’re in, and we can’t afford to take these large employers for granted.”
Since 2000, Minnesota has lost four companies from the Fortune 500 list through mergers and acquisitions. Eagan-based Northwest Airlines was acquired by Delta Air Lines in 2009. The St. Paul Companies merged with Travelers in 2004 and then moved several years later. Nash Finch was acquired by Michigan-based Spartan Stores in 2013. And in 2016, St. Jude Medical was acquired by Abbott Laboratories, though the local employment count has remained stable.
But other Minnesota companies — Ameriprise, Thrivent, Xcel Energy, C.H. Robinson, Ecolab, Land O’Lakes and Patterson — have grown onto the list since 2000.
Minnesota had 13 Fortune 500 companies in 2000. Even with Mosaic’s departure, the state will have a net gain with 16 still on the list.
The state has lost headquarters recently for up-and-coming corporations Valspar, which was acquired by Sherwin Williams in 2017, and G&K Services, acquired by Cintas in 2017.
Staff writers Tom Meersman and Patrick Kennedy contributed to this report.