A business community worth celebrating

With a still unsettled economy, conversations about jobs and our business climate have been running at fever pitch statewide and nationally. While there are signs of a recovery and the jobless rate is trending downward — Minnesota is at about 7 percent compared to the nation’s 9.4 percent — far too many of us know someone who is out of work.

Fortunately, Minnesota and the Twin Cities are well-placed to lead the way in getting its people, all of its people, back to work. Why?

Because we have a lot going for us.

Our Twin Cities’ area is home to 20 Fortune 500 companies! Minneapolis-St. Paul ranks first among the 30 largest metropolitan areas in the number of these companies per capita, exceeding Houston, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Globally recognized companies headquartered here which are part of Fortune 500’s top 50 include Target, Best Buy and Supervalu.

Minnesota is friendly to business. Minneapolis-St. Paul in 2009 was ranked as the second best area for business among the 30 largest U.S. metropolitan areas. According to the MarketWatch report “Best Metro Areas for Business,” Minneapolis-St. Paul ranks fourth among 101 metropolitan areas.

Our incredible entrepreneurial spirit — we’re seventh on at least one entrepreneurial index — also plays a pivotal role as a driver for our economic recovery.

As we endeavor to improve upon our enviable business climate, let’s not forget about the attributes that help to make the Twin Cities a great place to live, work and play. Successful businesses are ultimately about people, whether they are executive officers, sales personnel, managers, artists or stagehands. People, especially those with families who have specific needs and desires, consider what a city has to offer when deciding whether to relocate or stay put. It’s not all about the weather. Ensuring that we create the kind of environment that retains and attracts the human talent these businesses need is essential to our economic growth.

Investing in people is as significant as managing the regulatory and corporate tax burden. A locale that is welcoming to diverse populations and individuals will attract and retain the broad talent pool needed by our Fortune 500 companies to thrive. Beautiful cities with plentiful parks, ample offerings of cultural events and opportunities to socialize, promote satisfaction and attachment to a community, which in turn establishes a stable local workforce.

Cities that favor austerity over beauty, isolation over a rich and strong social and cultural environment, do so at their own peril. This delicate balance is something communities, and the companies within them, must foster to sustain a successful business sector that creates the jobs our community needs. If achieving this balance means even one less person out of work, it is certainly well worth it.

Tom Hoch is president and CEO of Hennepin Theatre Trust, owner of the historic State, Orpheum and Pantages Theatres, a nonprofit organization devoted to enriching the vibrant cultural atmosphere of the Twin Cities. Please visit HennepinTheatreTrust.org for more information.