Incentivize businesses to do the right thing – hire a veteran


As a blogger, I’m quickly learning not to be surprised at what grabs people’s attention. On Nov. 7, I headlined a story: “City considers incentives to draw in new business.” It was a preview to a Burnsville Economic Development Commission meeting on the topic. The post garnered few page views at the time. But over the past couple of weeks, it has jumped to No. 5 in the B-ville News popular post ranking. WOW! What’s going on? Do you think people could be exploring Burnsville has a place to base their new business, and as they Google “Burnsville business incentives,” my story pops up? This is a question for people far more savvy about Internet tracking than me.

I didn’t follow up with a story about the incentives discussed at the Nov. 9 meeting, but I will do so now, with a little mix of my opinion, of course.

First off, I’m not sure why the topic was up for discussion, since the city has no extra money to devote to the effort of incentivizing businesses, other than the standard tax increment financing or tax abatement. But Skip Nienhaus, the city’s economic development coordinator, presented the question anyway: “If we have an incentive fund, what would be the goal … what would be the prime objective?”

After an hour or so of discussion, the best the commission could come up with is to provide help (if they can find money) in retrofitting existing vacant space for businesses that want to expand. Nienhaus said some businesses move from Burnsville because they outgrow the property and there is nothing available here to suit their new need.

Is this a solution looking for a problem or in other words, just plain old busy work? I say, “yes.”
However, if the city is really hoping to effect a change for businesses, why not raise funds to help our entrepreneurs hire returning veterans? Now that’s how Burnsville can really make its mark.

I recently attended a meeting at the State Capitol about the suicide rate among veterans in Minnesota – it’s the highest in the nation.

One of the stress factors that can lead to suicide is unemployment. 

The state’s high unemployment rate among veterans (approximately 12 percent) has Maj. Gen. Rick Nash, adjutant general for the Minnesota National Guard, concerned. He told a joint meeting of House and Senate veterans committees that while recently in Kuwait visiting Minnesota’s National Guard contingent he learned that 28 percent of the force would be facing unemployment when they return in 2012.

One reason for the high unemployment rate, he said, is because of perception that many returning military suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Additionally, the military’s dependence on civilian soldiers leaves employers nervous that a Guard member-employee could be called up at any time.

What if Burnsville set up a fund to help local businesses address some of the issues that prevent them from hiring veterans? We could help pay for training or reintegration services, or possibly provide a stipend to help the employer with any legitimate costs that may come with hiring a vet who is trying to get her or his feet back on the ground?

Burnsville has chosen to participate in the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon campaign offering to help provide support and services to our returning veterans. Being a “Yellow Ribbon Community” should be more than just giving lip-service to our veterans.

What do you think?