By Joe Atkins, Dakota County Commissioner, District 4

As a lifelong resident and small-business owner, I have found Dakota County to be a terrific place to live, work and raise a family.

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Each year I check to see whether objective data supports my belief. Below are the statistics, using only the most up-to-date sources I can find. The data shows how well we are doing, while also shedding light on challenges we face.

This week I will focus on financial and economic matters.

PROPERTY TAXES. The latest data from the Department of Revenue shows Dakota County has the lowest county property taxes per person of any county in Minnesota. The average household in Dakota County pays $247 less in property taxes each year than the Twin Cities metro average.

Frugal spending decisions and cost-efficient partnerships with local cities are a couple main reasons we are Minnesota's lowest-taxed county.

DEBT. Dakota County government has zero debt, which is unusual in Minnesota and across the country. The average debt among metro counties in the Twin Cities is over $200 million.

Having no debt also helps us hold down property taxes, since unlike many counties we are not paying millions per year in principal and interest on borrowed funds. Dakota County recently received the Distinguished Budget Award from the Government Finance Officers Association.

JOBS & BUSINESS. The county unemployment rate dropped from 8 percent in 2010 to about 2.2 percent currently, the lowest in more than 10 years and lower than the national and state averages. At $75,567 percent year, the average household in Dakota County earns slightly more than the statewide median income.

Dakota County is also home to Minnesota's newest Fortune 500 company - Patterson Companies in Mendota Heights - as well as the Minnesota Vikings and two of the state's top four largest women-owned business: Smead Manufacturing in Hastings and Rihm Kenworth, which relocated to South St. Paul in 2017.

FARM PRODUCTION. Speaking of rural Dakota County, USDA data shows our local farmers hold their own among Minnesota's yield-leading counties in bushels per acre of oats, corn and soybeans. No other metro area county comes close to the crop production here in Dakota County.

AAA BOND RATING. No county in the country has a higher bond rating than Dakota County.

CONSTRUCTION & GROWTH. Last year new construction in Dakota County was up 32 percent over the previous year. More people are moving in, and our population is nearing 422,000 people.

We are Minnesota's third-largest county in terms of population, and it is anticipated we will pass Ramsey County for the No. 2 spot in the next decade or so.

BROADBAND. More than 97 percent of Dakota County residents have access to broadband at speeds of 100 Mbps or more, according to study by This ranks us as the fourth best county in Minnesota for broadband service.

However, the rural portions of southern Dakota County remain unserved or underserved by wireline service.

HIGHWAYS. Dakota County maintains 412 miles of county highways that see more than a billion miles traveled each year.

For more about Dakota County's successes and challenges by the numbers, see next week's column.