I hold in my hands a copy of the new book “Amazing Minnesota: State Rankings & Unusual Information” by Lee Lynch, founder and retired CEO of Carmichael Lynch advertising and leading candidate for Minnesota’s most creative citizen. The book, amazingly designed by Michael Skjei, tells the story of Minnesota’s remarkable national leadership in nearly every category of business, education, economy, health and quality of life — data Lynch and his wife, Terry Saario, former president of the Northwest Area Foundation, wished they’d had available years ago when recruiting national and international talent to our state.
Lynch’s beautiful book of Minnesota facts arrives at the ideal time, for the greatest recruiting opportunity in recent history was just announced by giant retailer Amazon, seeking an urban site for a second world headquarters eventually to employ as many as 50,000.
The Twin Cities and state far exceed every requirement Amazon has laid out: relatively affordable housing; nation-leading education systems and results; excellent and growing mass transit and light rail; a top-ranked airport 30 minutes from downtown with nonstop flights to the world; and easy access to abundant arts and recreation.
And many more not indicated. As corporate headquarters for Target and Best Buy, two of the nation’s leading retailers, we know retail. Actually, the Seattle-based Amazon understands that, for when Target downsized after the Canadian expansion fiasco, Amazon set up a recruiting office here. Those hires know how exemplary is our city and state vs. the expensive, traffic-choked, smoky, rainy, earthquake-prone, utterly beautiful Pacific Northwest.
Minnesota’s political and business leaders certainly will develop a sweet package of tax incentives for such a monster economic opportunity, as will every other North American city above a million residents, an Amazon requirement. But no other city and state in North America so far exceeds all of its other infrastructure requirements, as Lynch’s timely book demonstrates.
“Amazing Minnesota” succinctly inventories Minnesota’s singularity vs. other states, including abundant fresh water, stable geology and a gently warming climate that will drown, erode or roast cities in other climes. We offer the nation’s richest educational, cultural and arts opportunities; the nation’s highest educational attainment; leading theaters and museums; parks and bicycle paths; more lakeshore living; plus recreational opportunities equal to Seattle (OK, minus the mountains). The Twin Cities are famously immigrant- and gay-friendly, and Minnesota is the No. 1 state for working women, all hugely important to businesses that must attract and retain creative talent.
Several surprising stats: Minnesota ranks first in home affordability and fourth in business climate (CNBC), and a $100,000 salary in Minnesota is worth only $75,263 in Seattle, due to our low cost of living and high median income. Politico says it straight: Minnesota is No. 1.
Lynch cites the famous truism in the business community that Minnesota is one of the hardest places to recruit people to — winter, anyone? — but because of the quality of business, community and creative life, it is the hardest place to recruit people from.
“Amazing Minnesota” reveals everything that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his smart lieutenants are looking for, and need. Tax breaks, as he also knows, mean little in the end vs. employees who insist on a clean, green, creative, healthy, open-minded community. No city comes close to the Twin Cities in offering those high standards.
Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders: Read Lynch’s timely book. Then send copies to every executive at Amazon. Whatever additional enticements you decide to add, the fact of established Minnesota leadership should be the clincher.
James P. Lenfestey is a former editorial writer for the Star Tribune covering education, energy policy and the environment.