April 11, 2016

VOTING WITH YOUR FEET: Minnesota’s Great Wealth Migration:

Three years ago next month, a long-time Twin Cities CEO joined about 20 other Minnesota business leaders to meet privately with Gov. Mark Dayton in downtown Minneapolis. The governor talked about the state’s business climate and his priorities, and then the format opened up into a Q&A session…“I brought up that people are leaving—people who have a fair bit of assets and the ability and wherewithal to leave—and what worries me is that when they do, they’re not going to come back because they learn they can live in really nice places and not pay our state income tax,” says the CEO, who heads a near-century old business with 600 employees and $200 million in annual revenue. “His response was, ‘Well, people are free to live wherever they want to.’ So his answer was he doesn’t care if they leave.”

The CEO moved to Naples, Fla., while keeping his company’s headquarters—and its 250 employees—in the Twin Cities. He says he would have stayed had he felt more welcome. “It’s one of those things I said to Mark: ‘If you can just make it a little more fair for entrepreneurs and business owners, many of us would say, “That’s OK, I can deal with it.” But it doesn’t seem like you want to keep us here.’ Minnesota now has an anti-success feeling.”

In January, this same individual ran into Florida Gov. Rick Scott while attending a dinner. “I said hello, introduced myself and my wife, and said, ‘We are among your newest residents,’ ” he recalls. “He said, ‘Welcome to Florida,’ adding, ‘You know, I really need to send your governor a thank-you note for all the people moving from Minnesota to Florida.’ And at the end of our conversation, he added, ‘If there’s anything I can ever do for you, please let me know.’ I was in complete shock.”

In a 2012 Afterburner video titled “Going Out of Business,” Bill Whittle described a nearly identical response from then-Gov. Rick Perry, when XCOR began its move from the failing, massively regulated state of California for Texas. “You know how many times Arnold Schwarzenegger or Jerry Brown came to visit XCOR?” Whittle holds up his right hand forming a zero:

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