It was surprising to learn this week that the Mosaic Co. has elected to relocate its corporate headquarters to Florida, though the surprise was in remembering that the company was even still here.
Mosaic is a major player in the global fertilizer business, and while Minnesota may be known for consuming fertilizer it certainly is not known for producing it. The only reason the headquarters was here in the first place is that the company is a creation of Cargill and its family shareholders.
Its operations lie elsewhere, primarily in Brazil, Canada and particularly central Florida. The company is not a top-50 employer here, but it has at least 3,000 people in Florida along with an equal number of contractors, according to the Tampa Bay Times. There is a chance that the Mosaic Co. employs more people just at its golf resort in Florida than the 150 or so it has at its Plymouth headquarters.
From the chatter that our state Capitol staff picked up Tuesday, it’s clear that some see this news of Mosaic’s relocation as a big deal, if not cause for alarm. The concern is that state and local taxes and other costs might have driven out a Fortune 500 company headquarters.
It’s obviously a good idea to scrutinize the impact of tax policy on business, of course, and costs were certainly part of the decision here. But it seems just as fair to conclude that if your company owns a set of fancy golf courses in Florida, it seems like more fun to work there rather than in the suburban Twin Cities. That’s particularly true in January.
Mosaic isn’t a resort company, of course. But it owns a lot of land in Florida, roughly 290,000 acres as of the last annual filing. As a way to reclaim land from past phosphate operations, it developed the Streamsong Resort on previously mined land roughly an hour’s drive southeast of Tampa. Its third course opened last year.
As you may have already concluded from the fact that Mosaic owns that much of Florida, it’s a big company. It’s one of the largest potash producers in the world, has about 60 percent of North America’s phosphate capacity and is now the largest producer and distributor of fertilizer in Brazil. It was nicely profitable in its first quarter at nearly $2 billion in sales.
Mosaic is a solid corporate citizen, too. Among its contributions here was helping the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota pay for a professor of sustainable business practices.
Fertilizer operations can be messy, and while Mosaic’s environmental record is far from perfect, it works hard on being a responsible company. One of its ideas is that a company can meet the letter of environmental law and still lose its “social license” to operate among customers and others if it falls short of their standards of how a company ought to behave.
It’s obviously disappointing to lose a company like Mosaic, or really any corporate headquarters. The best answer to the question of what really drives the Twin Cities economy remains the many corporate headquarters, not any industry or particular company.
There were far fewer companies from Minnesota on the first Fortune 500 in the mid-1950s than there will be after Mosaic leaves and drops the number to 16. Headquarters operations are one of the things that works well in a state like Minnesota, with relatively high taxes and costs of doing business but with a vibrant economy and quality of life that makes it attractive when trying to fill jobs in fields such as management, software development, finance and law.
In the Tampa metropolitan area, where Mosaic is headed, the median household income came to about $51,000 as of the latest census data, vs. more than $73,000 here. It’s no surprise, really, that more than 40 percent of people in the greater Twin Cities have at least a bachelor’s degree. In Tampa it’s less than 29 percent.
That’s why it makes sense to put the loss of 150 jobs at Mosaic into some context.
A good example of a homegrown company still thriving here is UnitedHealth Group of Minnetonka, and at No. 6 on the last Fortune list it was way up the ranking from Mosaic at 377.
A quick check of the recruiting site for UnitedHealth revealed 581 current job openings in Minnesota, although some indicate the option of picking a location. When checking back a few minutes later to take a closer look at some of the jobs, the number had increased to 588.
This company looks like a great opportunity for tech workers like data scientists and agile software development project managers, but it’s also looking for people to fill jobs like a social media intelligence analyst and even an associate general counsel.
As for folks at Mosaic who decide central Florida isn’t really for them and eventually lose their job, hopefully an offer of severance pay and other benefits is coming. Then there’s an opportunity to enjoy some fine Minnesota days outside and then start work for UnitedHealth Group.
It seems safe to conclude they’ll still be hiring.