Lockheed Martin is eliminating about 1,000 jobs from its facility in Eagan. Might a better tax climate have averted that blow to Minnesota families?

According to company spokesman cited by the Pioneer Press, the company had excess capacity nationwide and needed to consolidate its operations. The Eagan facility has over 600,000 square feet–the size of 3 Super Target stores–so there will be an enormous vacant spot in the middle of the state’s 8th-largest city. Eagan recently seen job losses at Northwest/Delta and Thomson Reuters as well, all involving high-skill, high-pay jobs.

Is there something about Minnesota’s public policy that is to blame for these recent closures? Perhaps in part. The legal industry, Thomson’s market, has been in the tank. Northwest was acquired by Atlanta-based Delta, and it’s normal for acquiring companies to consolidate operations at their existing headquarters. (But the fact that Georgia is a right-to-work state and Minnesota is not cannot be lost on Delta, which employs a large number of non-unionized workers.)

Dan McElroy, Minnesota’s commissioner of employment and economic development, said the Lockheed decision “wasn’t about incentives. It was about having too much capacity.”

Perhaps. Yet might a better tax climate have made a difference?

In October and November, the Minnesota Free Market Institute rolled out a series of commentaries on the effects of corporate income taxes. Lockheed will eliminate some of the Eagan jobs and move the rest to California, New York, and Virginia. California and New York don’t seem like places you’d expand your business to, but on the corporate income tax, the Tax Foundation says Minnesota ranks 44, California ranks 33, New York ranks 20, and Virginia ranks 4. The corporate income tax is one component of the foundation’s business-climate index: Minnesota was 43, California was 49, and New York was 50. Virginia, on the other hand, was ranked 12th. One important question is this: Where will most of the jobs go? At this point, we don’t know.

Our series on corporate taxes discussed academic reports that looked at the effects of corporate tax rates at the margin. Since taxes are but one factor in a company’s decision-making matrix, it would be unfair to put the total blame for those job losses on Minnesota’s public policies. But as this story reminds us, employers have multiple options, a fact that members of our Legislature ought to keep in mind.