By Mike Kaszuba
For several years, Minnesota’s top economic development agency has had a financial partnership with Greater MSP, the business non-profit that recently submitted – but along with state officials has declined to make public — the state’s bid to land an Amazon corporate headquarters.
Invoices obtained by St. Paul-based non-profit Public Record Media (PRM) show that the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) has been billed more than $80,000 by Greater MSP for a variety of economic development-related activities since 2015.
The business non-profit billed DEED for such items as sharing the cost of a suite rental for a Minnesota Twins game in Chicago, and for spending at least $45,000 to sponsor a “50-person hospitality chalet” at the 2016 Ryder Cup golf tournament held at the Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minnesota. DEED was also billed $9,525 by Greater MSP for a “world trade luncheon” and sponsorship.
Greater MSP and Amazon
Greater MSP – which is backed by many of Minnesota’s top corporations – has drawn attention due to its recent work to submit the state’s bid for a second Amazon corporate headquarters. A DEED spokesman had earlier told PRM that “Greater MSP took on the task of compiling Minnesota’s response and submitting it to Amazon.”
The arrangement, DEED spokesman Shane Delaney added, evolved after the state agency and Greater MSP studied the requirements of the Amazon bid and decided to “perform duties that best fit each organization’s strengths.” Delaney also stated that DEED did not have a full copy of the state’s bid.
In addition, Delaney added that DEED had “no overall contract” with Greater MSP.
A Greater MSP spokesman likewise declined to release the bid to PRM, in part because he said the business non-profit was under a non-disclosure agreement with Amazon.
Amazon recently announced a list of finalists for the location of the company’s second corporate campus – a project that spurred a high-profile competition in which cities and states offered government subsidies to lure Amazon. The on-line corporate giant had global sales of $43.7 billion in the third quarter of 2017.
Even though Minnesota was not listed as a finalist, its bid has not yet been made public.
Payments from government entities
Since its creation in 2010, Greater MSP has received payments from local governments to help spur economic development in Minnesota. Although several public entities – including Hennepin County, Ramsey County, and the University of Minnesota – have disclosed payments made to Greater MSP, the business non-profit has declined to release to PRM a comprehensive list of the payments it has received from government entities.
Greater MSP’s board includes representatives of Minnesota’s leading companies – including Cargill, Target, Ecolab, Medtronic, and Health Partners.
Former DEED Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben praised Greater MSP, and records show the two entities — which have similar missions — have worked together on projects. Greater MSP has “done an excellent job bringing together leaders in the public and private sector,” the former DEED commissioner told PRM in an e-mail in 2016. She added that Greater MSP “has played a key role” in the Twin Cities’ recent economic success.
In 24 of the 28 economic development projects that Greater MSP listed as accomplishments in 2014, for example, DEED was also listed as a partner on those same projects.
DEED payments to Greater MSP
Over the past three years, DEED’s financial partnership with Greater MSP has involved a variety of business-creation initiatives, according to invoices provided to PRM.
For instance, DEED paid $10,000 to Greater MSP in 2015 for a Minnesota Technology Water Summit sponsorship. It was billed close to $4,000 that same year to share costs related to the CoreNet Global Summit in Los Angeles. A year later – in 2016 – DEED paid Greater MSP more than $3,000 to share costs at the CoreNet Global Summit in Philadelphia.
The 2016 CoreNet Global Summit was titled “The Bigger Picture – Geopolitics, Economics and the Environment.” The event website announcing the summit stated that “geopolitical events, the global economy, sustainability and advances in technology all influence the way organizations behave. Change is inevitable and [for] organizations to thrive they must be agile and dynamic; ready to respond to change as if it were an anticipated strategic occurrence.”
“In a world of constant change,” it added, “the biggest risk for leaders is delayed response.”
DEED also was billed $3,000 by Greater MSP to participate in the Natural Products Expo West in March of 2017, and $1,400 for a Milwaukee Brewers vs. Chicago Cubs baseball game that same year. Others entities that were billed by Greater MSP for the baseball game included Xcel Energy and Great River Energy, which provides wholesale electric service that ultimately serves 1.7 million Minnesotans.