Dayton: Secrecy worth it if Iron Range gets jobs

Gov. Mark Dayton Tim Pugmire|MPR News

Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday defended secret negotiations his administration has had with a lumber company that would get subsidies to open a northern Minnesota plant.

Two state agencies have been in talks with a large corporation about putting a siding manufacturing operation on the Iron Range. State lawmakers are considering new tax breaks and grants to sweeten the deal, putting millions of dollars in subsidies on the table.

Dayton’s administration signed an agreement barring it from identifying the company. The DFL governor said it’s only the second such arrangement he can recall during his tenure.

“I wish there were more,” he said.

He’s asking the public to trust state negotiators.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that if anybody looks at it, if it comes to fruition, would say it’s a very sound investment by the state of Minnesota and a necessary one in the competitive situation we’re in with other states,” Dayton said.

Dayton said the hundreds of potential jobs _ in an area of the state that desperately needs them _ make the incentives worthwhile.

“It’s a delicate area because companies have their own prerogatives and companies where you don’t respect their prerogative you lose the opportunity to provide scores or in some cases hundreds of jobs,” Dayton said. “We’re not at a stage yet where this company wants its name to be disclosed. I’m going to respect that because I want the jobs.”

The Minnesota Senate will vote on a portion of the incentives as part of a budget bill up for consideration on Thursday.