Minnesota needs a business development commissioner

If our Governor and our state is serious about not just promoting Minnesota but making Minnesota an attractive place to do business, then Minnesota needs a cabinet level commissioner focused on business development...

By John Alexander

If our Governor and our state is serious about not just promoting Minnesota but making Minnesota an attractive place to do business; if our representatives are serious about encouraging businesses to both move here and expand here; if we want more jobs, more choice in jobs and increased diversity in types of businesses here; then Minnesota needs a cabinet level commissioner focused on business development.

The Governor’s duties are too broad and like a CEO, he is responsible for it all but he can not do it all. Likewise, the Commissioner of DEED (Department of Employment and Economic Development) has many responsibilities and, in addition to the skill set difference, does not have the bandwidth to on this role.

Most corporations needing to create new businesses, bring in technologies, develop strategic alliances, acquire and divest have a dedicated person in the business development role. I know this from personal experience having held this role in large public and emerging medical technology companies.

We need an executive with a focused charter. By executive, I do mean a senior person of deep and related business experience rather than purely political experience. CEOs need to see this individual as a peer. He needs to be able to communicate on their level and fully understand (not just listen to) their needs and concerns.

He should be an executive who has demonstrable experience in negotiating in the CEO-suite, who understands how to negotiate, who has thought not just the terms of a relationship between a State and a company but through both the short and long-term ramifications of these types of relationships. He must have the process down cold.

This skill set, activity and role is too important to either roll into a current position or delegate it to a current member of the political class – regardless of party. This role is just too important to risk another demonstration that they do not understand the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Examples of nature’s enforcement of the law on poorly thought through deals are many: but double blocking of gates at MSP to prevent other airlines from providing service when Northwest went on strike and providing tax advantages to Northwest that did not impeded Delta from moving the operations out of Minnesota are two examples with just one company.

The Commissioner of Business Development’s charter should be simple:
Get businesses to move to MN to create jobs and improve the tax base
Get current businesses to expand here to create jobs and improve the tax base

So what would he do to accomplish this?

Contact all major businesses headquartered in Minnesota and ask what can be done to encourage them to expand here (not necessarily money).

This means proactively paying attention to them and letting them know how important they are to Minnesota, that we appreciate them being here and being a good corporate citizen It also would not be a bad idea to encourage the state representatives and senators to pay a visit.

The Governor could also be brought in to pay attention to them in a positive way at the right time to encourage the right action.

Contact any business nationwide considering a move or expansion and ask what they need to move here.

He needs to keep an ear to the ground to assure we don’t miss an opportunity to capture a company willing to relocate. He needs to be ready to pitch our state fully armed with not just comparative demographics but an attractive tax, regulatory, and infrastructure structure.

Contact all business groups; what can we do to make running a business easier [while preserving necessary regulatory oversight, safety, etc].

While I understand the state house has a project of this type now, a Commissioner might heighten the attention.

Work with all agencies to streamline, facilitate retention and recruitment of jobs throughout the state.

Benchmark other states which have been successful in retaining expansion projects from employers in the state as well as attracting new employers to the state to determine reforms and programs needed to make Minnesota more attractive.

Businesses have to benchmark their competition to improver their products, services and prices. This is small world – becoming smaller. Before Minnesota can effectively compete against the rest of the world it need to be competitive with the other states. Both are moving targets.

The Governor, Commissioner of DEED, and both houses of the legislator need to support his activities if we are to see favorable change in this area. Recommendations that come out of the steps above need to be addressed promptly and with a positive pro-business as well as pro-jobs attitude / underlying philosophy.

Creation of this role by the Governor and endorsement by the legislator would be a very positive message, welcomed by business across the nation, sending the message that Minnesota is serious about attracting and keeping business (and jobs).

John Alexander is President of Business Development Advisors, Founder and Chair of the Twin Cities Angels, and business author of the Angel Investment Tax Credit.
Email him at: John@BusDevAdvisors.com.

Next Up


Coller: What's left to watch for Vikings fans?

Matthew Coller writes a weekly Vikings column for BMTN, with more of his work found at Purple Insider.

trick-or-treating, Halloween

Traditional trick-of-treating a no-no, but MDH say there are ways to make it safer

There are safer ways to do trick-or-treating than going door-to-door, health officials say.

android sanitizing station CBP

Officers seize 440 fake hand-sanitizing stations at International Falls port

If the items were legitimate, they would have been worth more than $1 million.

Screen Shot 2020-10-05 at 3.13.09 PM

Jason Lewis discharged from the hospital after life-threatening hernia

Lewis will return to his home in Woodbury to recover.

voting sign

Backlash as Trump campaign, MPD union seek retired cops to act as 'poll challengers'

The Secretary of State says targeting a "problem area" is unlawful.

train car BNSF, grain hopper

Woman fatally struck by train in west-central Minnesota

The woman's identity has not been released.

Screen Shot 2020-10-29 at 6.52.02 AM

Target reveals its first Black Friday deals; month-long discounts planned

The retailer is staggering its sales to make it easier to shoppers to plan amid COVID-19.

Sergio Romo

Twins decline 2021 option on Sergio Romo

The Twins begin a potential overhaul in the bullpen.

high school football

'Scalpel approach' gives MN schools chance to keep playing sports

County infection rates are no longer the only thing that matters.


With the help of HVAC, Circus Juventas will host its first holiday shows

After months of canceled classes and shows, Circus Juventas is hosting its first ever holiday show, with safety precautions.

Cameron Dantzler

Vikings send Cameron Dantzler to COVID-19/reserve list

Dantzler's placement leaves the Vikings paper-thin at cornerback heading into Green Bay.


Minnesota needs a healthier business ecosystem

There is no question — our economy is a mess. Whether it’s Minnesota’s $5 billion deficit, our nation’s mind-boggling debt, or the near bankruptcies of other nations – we are fighting a financial war on all fronts.

Mark Phillips steps down as DEED commissioner, Katie Clark steps in

Gov. Mark Dayton says Mark Phillips, commissioner of the state Department of Employment and Economic Development, is resigning effective Friday to "pursue opportunities in the private sector," Politics in Minnesota reports. Dayton has promoted Katie Clark, the head of Minnesota’s Trade Office, to lead the state's economic and workforce development agency.

Former state DEED Commissioner Mark Phillips returns to previous post

Mark Phillips, who resigned as commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, has returned to Minneapolis-based Kraus-Anderson Construction Company as director of business development, according to a company news release. This is the same job he had from 2007 to 2011. Gov. Mark Dayton announced Phillips was returning to the public sector earlier this month.

A business born in a bottle

Jacquie Berglund launched Finnegans Amber Beer in September 2000, with the mission of giving profits from the business to help feed Minnesota’s hungry and struggling populations.

Shelby Shares: Fishing opener serious business

BringMeTheNews.com's Don Shelby travels to Waconia for the Governor's Fishing Opener. Sure, it's fun -- but the real angle is that fishing is serious business for the state of Minnesota.

Federal funds will bolster Minnesota small business

When Minnesota entrepreneurs are in need of cash, many of them end up in the offices of local non-profits. Some of state's most generous non-profits when it comes to business lending are getting $4.5 million from the federal government to help out Minnesota businesses.

More business owners see improvement in Minnesota economy

31 percent of Minnesota business owners and managers surveyed by the state chamber of commerce and a public relations firm see the state's economy improving. That's up from just 13 percent in last year's Business Barometer survey. As for what obstacles they face, high taxes was the most common concern followed by health care costs and finding qualified workers.