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These comments are responses to the statements listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Fred Zimmerman Interview of

Well-run companies the key determinant of strong, competitive communities


Fred Zimmerman, Professor Emeritus at the University of St. Thomas, says well-run, forward-looking companies, rather than public policies or foundational competitiveness, appear to be the most powerful determinant of a strong, competitive position for a community. He says without good companies, a community will not be competitive and probably will not be a very good place to live.

He observes that Minnesota has not fared well in terms of retaining employment in key industries, noting the departures of Control Data, ADC, Northwest Airlines, the St. Paul Ford plant, Lockheed Martin and Burlington Northern. He says the Control Data and ADC departures were probably not influenced by public policy, but that the situations with the other four companies were very poorly handled by the state authorities.

He believes that, compared to education systems present in many other developed and developing countries, Minnesota's education system is mediocre and not world class.

Zimmerman holds that within a certain range, taxes are not a big factor for companies considering relocation. He says well-run companies care less about public subsidies than about government doing what it's supposed to be doing-maintaining roads, providing good schools and law enforcement, building a well-prepared workforce and having even-handed courts.

For the complete interview summary see: Zimmerman interview.

Response Summary: Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readers’ zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

Readers were asked to rank the following on a scale of 0-10 ("not at all important" to "very important").

1. Value of topic. (7.9 average response) How useful to you is today's interview?

2. Value of further study. (7.7 average response) How important is scheduling additional interviews on this topic?

Readers were asked to rate, on a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, the following points made during the discussion.

3. Companies key to competitiveness. (7.8 average response) Well-run, forward-looking companies make more of a difference in a community's competitive position than activities of government agencies.

4. Public services outweigh subsidies. (7.9 average response) In considering relocation to a new community such companies are less concerned about receiving subsidies than about whether local government is providing good roads, schools, law enforcement and other services.

5. Students value experience. (8.7 average response) Higher education teachers with business experience but without post-graduate degrees are likely to be rated higher by students than teachers with PhDs but no business experience.

6. Experience needed on staff. (8.9 average response) Government-run economic development agencies are more effective when their professional employees have previous experience in private industry.

Response Distribution:

Not at all





Total Responses

1. Usefulness of topic.







2. Importance of further study.








Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree


Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

3. Companies key to competitiveness.







4. Public services outweigh subsidies.







5. Students value experience.







6. Experience needed on staff.







Individual Responses:

Ray Ayotte (7.5) (2.5) (10) (10) (10) (10)

Scott Halstead (10) (10) (10) (2.5) (10) (10)

4. Public services outweigh subsidies. There seems to be a lot of companies looking for a handout.

Dave Broden (7.5) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)

1. Value of topic. Fred Zimmerman is a proven leader and expert in this field and offers insight as he sees it. Need to factor opinions, etc.

2. Value of further study. Need to keep returning to manufacturing as we address overall competitiveness.

3. Companies key to competitiveness. Business leadership can shape events and competitive situation much more than government since business sets the tone for how workers at all skill levels view the community and economy.

4. Public services outweigh subsidies. Sometime the discussion gets focused on topics that are not important because things like incentives seem more intense.

5. Students value experience. Teacher with capability to relate to the real job can connect to the student in many situations.

6. Experience needed on staff. Real industry background understanding adds value and helps to communicate.

Bruce A. Lundeen (10) (10) (7.5) (5) (7.5) (5)

1. Value of topic. Manufacturing, not public subsidy construction, increases economic activity.

3. Companies key to competitiveness. Profitable companies spin off and attract other profitable enterprises.

6. Experience needed on staff. I am not sure government-run economic development agencies are ever effective.

Don Anderson (7.5) (5) (7.5) (10) (10) (10)

John S. Adams (10) (10) (7.5) (10) (5) (5)

3. Companies key to competitiveness. In the history of manufacturing in Minnesota, we've overlooked the traditional quality of Minnesota's workforce—something that Zimmerman has talked and written about. Worker backgrounds in farming and working with machinery gave our manufacturers an edge that companies thrived on. A forward-looking company with good leadership and management will suffer without top-quality employees. St. Paul's Ford assembly plant flourished for years with its top-quality labor force. Today's workers often bring less to the job (attitudes, social skills, habits, skills) than was the case in an earlier time.

4. Public services outweigh subsidies. It is also important than the quality of local government be matched by appropriate pricing. Too much rent seeking among public service employees means that the price of government gets out of whack—a major problem for our times.

5. Students value experience. Teaching (1) general collegiate topics (English, history, math, geography, statistics, sociology, philosophy, languages, physics, etc.) and critical thinking is different from teaching (2) job skills (accounting, CAD/CAM, Diesel mechanics, heart surgery, cabinet making, etc.). The problem with many instructors in colleges and universities is that they are taught by research professors in graduate schools, who are the role models, even when their Ph.D. students end up spending much of their professional careers as untrained teachers. Moreover, in many colleges and universities there is a one-size-fits-all set of rules (i.e., Ph.D. required; adjuncts frowned upon). The whole situation is compounded by a lack of agreement on the part of college and university faculty—and the public—on what it is that students should be learning.

6. Experience needed on staff. This is one of those "it depends" issues.

Barney Nesseth (0) (0) (0) (7.5) (10) (10)

3. Companies key to competitiveness. At every turn in my community, government has made business less profitable, and to say otherwise is bunk for small business. In the last 5 years my fixed expenses have gone up 3 times or so. These include 2.5 times on electricity bill, due to wind energy mandates. Commercial property tax has went up 2.5 times in the last 5 years because [of] new property taxes, while the value of my property has plummeted. My workmen’s comp insurance rates have tripled in the last 3 years, even though I have had no claims whatsoever. My state unemployment rates went up 5 times and federal rate inched up also. Revenues have been flat for over 3 years. So to say government has had no affect on business is asinine.

Thomas Hulting (5) (2.5) (10) (2.5) (2.5) (7.5)

1. Value of topic. Largely empty rhetoric.

2. Value of further study. How important is it that St. Thomas be viewed as a credible source and arbiter of the information in the interview?

3. Companies key to competitiveness. Why is St. Thomas generally regarded as a "big government" shill when it comes to these issues?

4. Public services outweigh subsidies. Have any of you any "real world" experience? Companies locate where they do purposely to generate profits, both short-term and long-term. Why is this concept so hard for you to figure out? Oh, I understand; because you are not part of the "real world."

5. Students value experience. I don't think that this is a factor until after the student gets to the "real world," and only then does he/she understand the "real world" value of what was taught.

6. Experience needed on staff. Frankly, ideological predispositions are much more important; Conservative bias versus Democrat/Socialist/Progressive/Marxist bias is a much greater determiner of efficacy than simple "previous experience in private industry."

Dennis L. Johnson (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)

6. Experience needed on staff. General Comment on this speaker: Do I detect a trend toward more conservative speakers in past months? The choice of speakers seems to be drifting away from bureaucrats, academics and professional politicians toward experienced people from the private sector with more emphasis on hard data and common sense knowledge, not social theories. I hope I am right.

David F. Durenberger (10) (10) (5) (10) (10) (10)

Trixie Girtz Golberg (8) (10) (10) (9) (9) (9)

Carolyn Ring (8) (na) (10) (8) (8) (9)

Chuck Lutz (8) (8) (7) (9) (9) (9)

Robert J. Brown (10) (8) (9) (8) (10) (10)

Wayne Jennings (6) (8) (9) (8) (8) (8)

Tom Spitznagle (7) (8) (6) (6) (8) (9)

Paul and Ruth Hauge (7) (9) (7) (8) (8) (7)

Roger A Wacek (na) (na) (5) (10) (10) (10)

Tom Swain (10) (10) (10) (8) (10) (10)

Lyall Schwarzkopf (8) (8) (6) (7) (9) (9)



The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions,
reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   David Broden,  Janis Clay,  Bill Frenzel,  Paul Gilje,   Jan Hively,  Dan Loritz (Chair),  Marina Lyon,  Joe Mansky, 
Tim McDonald,  John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  Wayne Popham  and Bob White

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
2104 Girard Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55405.
Dan Loritz, chair, 612-791-1919   ~   Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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