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editor's note-What We Mean by
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editor's note-What We Mean by "Pro-Business"-October 2011

Oddly, the phrase still scares some like a bad Halloween experience.

I had the good fortune of joining approximately 100 fairly affluent business and community leaders a few weeks ago at a fascinating presentation about the status of civil rights in the United States. About midway through, the keynote speaker mentioned that the U.S. Supreme Court has become much more “pro-business” in recent years. Many in the crowd groaned.
 
At first, the audience’s reaction surprised me. How could so many well-educated, well-positioned community leaders verbally express disdain over the mere concept of being helpful to businesses? And, of course, it was even more unsettling given that I represent a magazine whose media kit describes it as using a “pro-business style” in how we cover matters.
 
But I get it. Books and movies often have stereotyped wealthy businesspeople as power hungry, out to make money regardless of whether people get hurt along the way. From Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life and the Dukes in Trading Places to, of course, Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, corporate bad guys are everywhere. Why on earth should anyone be “pro-business”?
 
The other problem with “pro-business” is that “pro” is usually perceived to mean that you favor one side of an issue so much that you’ll slant your messaging in that direction. A publication doing this runs the risk of losing the critical questioning expected, and needed, from good journalism— and worse, omitting information that readers would benefit from knowing.
 
That’s definitely not the case here. Yet the crowd’s moaning a few weeks ago, and occasional questions I receive when talking about our publication, make me realize that the term “pro-business” gets a bum rap largely because it usually goes unexplained.
 
So for those who don’t already know, here’s what “pro-business” means at Twin Cities Business.
 
We cover business leaders and issues in ways that celebrate our community’s strengths, while also instigating constructive dialogue about our challenges. Along with our readers, we get to know the personalities of our region’s most influential leaders, while uncovering the “how” behind their success, as well as that of their companies, strategies, innovations, and solutions. We take the time to understand what they’re going through, and how we might help.
 
“Pro-business” also means not turning away when something’s wrong, but rather addressing it with suggestions on how it can be changed for the better. It means asking thorough, sometimes tough questions, driven by an honest desire to help make the Twin Cities an even better place in which to live and work.
 
There are dozens of behind-the-scenes pro-business permeations into everything we do. Probably the most significant is making sure your time reading us is worthwhile. We do this by not only developing interesting and relevant stories, but also doing our homework and validating our content.
 
Take for example this year’s Outstanding Directors Awards feature. Too rarely do the media look at this side of business, and how important it is, not only for overseeing compliance and legal matters, but for supporting and sometimes protecting the ethical direction and culture of an organization. The directors of today’s businesses have more influence on society than do the politicians, economists, or pro athletes receiving most of today’s media attention.
 
Our Outstanding Directors Awards coverage, which starts on page 31, is the result of several hours’ worth of gathering nominations, reviewing them with a panel of independent judges to select our finalists, and then calling their lead directors or board chairs to run through a set of criteria that had to be met before the nominee could be honored as an Outstanding Director.
 
These criteria include a director’s communicating “candidly, constructively, and with courage” during board meetings, demonstrating “integrity and high ethical standards,” and showing that they are “attentive to all stakeholders’ interests.”
 
There are plenty of directors with great attendance records and knowledge about their subject matter. We found five who go way beyond these norms. I hope you enjoy reading about them in this month’s issue, and that you can join us for an awards dinner celebrating their achievements on October 20.
 
Funding a Vikings Stadium? Think Airports
 
At press time, the most promising option for a new Vikings stadium remained the Arden Hills site, because it has some semblance of a financing plan. But Jac Sperling continues to develop an alternative plan (see page 13). And the group promoting the Minneapolis Farmers’ Market site— Bruce Lambrecht, Dave Albersman, and Mark Oyaas—is floating an intriguing idea that makes great sense from both a economic-development and a public-policy perspective.
 
The idea is to finance and manage a new football stadium the same way the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) owns, finances, and manages Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport and six smaller reliever airports in the metro area. MAC’s funding comes from concessions revenues, lease agreements, airline fees, passenger facility charges, federal grants, and bond sales. There’s no funding from income, sales, or property taxes.
 
Under the Lambrecht group’s plan, all major sports facilities in the metro area would be consolidated under a newly formed public corporation likely to be called the Minnesota Entertainment Commission (MEC). This plan could save millions of dollars in management and financing-related costs currently spent to maintain and fund each facility on its own. The move also would eliminate the never-ending requests to the Minnesota Legislature for more tax dollars to fund a facility’s development, expansion, or improvements.
 
Like the MAC, the MEC would use bond financing, backed by the ability to tax residents in the 11-county metropolitan area, in order to maintain, improve, or expand all sports and related properties under its control. At first, these would include the new football stadium as well as the Metrodome, Target Center, Target Field, and the Minneapolis Convention Center. Later, it would include St. Paul RiverCentre and Midway Stadium in St. Paul.
 
Here’s how all of this would help finance a new Vikings stadium. First, the properties just mentioned and their related revenue streams would be consolidated, the Metrodome would be sold, and all remaining properties would be refinanced—all of which would generate proceeds of approximately $340 million. The Vikings’ owners would be asked to contribute $390 million, the state $180 million, and Minnesota corporations $100 million (because professional sports are important for attracting and retaining great employees). That’s $1 billion in financing, along with other, longer-lasting benefits for the metro area and for state taxpayers.
 
Far-fetched as it may sound, the concept brings up good points about how our region could save money and time by better planning and managing our pro sports infrastructure. It will be interesting to see if it picks up any support in the legislature.

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