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America’s Top State for Business – Business Friendliness

7/29/2015 2:11:02 PM

Minnesota punches above its weight when it comes to major corporations, with 17 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the state, including powerhouses like 3M, General Mills, Target and U.S. Bancorp. The success of those homegrown businesses says a lot about the business climate of the state. Minnesota has business-friendly policies and programs that make it possible for companies to not only survive but thrive here.

Business friendliness was one of the 10 categories that CNBC evaluated when it recently named Minnesota America’s Top State for Business 2015. While ranking high in several key categories, the state finished toward the middle of the pack in CNBC’s look at business friendliness. Minnesota was 23rd in that category, collecting 75 points out of a possible 160 points. Our neighbors to the west, North Dakota and South Dakota, were No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.

CNBC said it measured each state’s regulatory framework and “perceived friendliness” in determining how many points to award in this category.

While that definition leaves a lot open to interpretation, one of Minnesota’s strengths when it comes to business friendliness is state programs and services designed to ensure businesses succeed here.

One of the newest programs is the Job Creation Fund, which was created to encourage companies to expand their workforces and make major investments and upgrades. Once those commitments are completed, DEED awards grants to the businesses to help offset some of their costs. Since the program began in January 2014, DEED has awarded $19.8 million to 38 companies in Minnesota. Those companies have committed to creating 2,227 full-time jobs and investing $380.4 million.

The Angel Tax Credit Program debuted in July 2010 to encourage private investments in technology startups in the state, particularly software, medical device and biotechnology firms. The program fuels innovation and attracts new investments by providing a 25 percent tax credit to qualified investors. Through the end of last year, more than 280 Minnesota startups had attracted nearly $250 million in investments, thanks to the program.

Small businesses also are getting help from DEED’s statewide network of Small Business Development Centers, which offer free advice on capital and loan packaging, accounting systems and literacy, marketing and research, marketing plan development, business plan development, succession and strategic planning, and much more.

That hands-on strategy appears to be paying off. The Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks Minnesota fifth nationally in the five-year survival rate of its small businesses.

In recent weeks, we’ve been looking closer at the criteria CNBC used in naming Minnesota the top state for business. Check out the other blog posts examining how Minnesota did in each of the 10 major categories in the rankings.

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