Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and the state’s Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) launched the Build What Matters campaign in late October 2021 to make the case that Minnesota is where startups, existing companies and workers can succeed. What makes the program unique is the involvement of businesses in getting the word out. Executives from HabitAware (a smart bracelet manufacturer), Digi-Key Electronics and Xcel Energy helped launch the program, among others.
In mid-January, DEED Commissioner Steve Grove moderated an online event as part of the Build What Matters campaign that involved more Minnesota company representatives. “We have a long history of building things that change the global economy for the better,” he noted. “Here at DEED we continue to work collaboratively with many sectors in order to carry on that tradition and move Minnesota’s workforce and economy toward a brighter future.”
After the event, DEED made available excerpts of the panel discussion, which include the following:
Ryan Weber, Managing Partner & Co-founder of Great North Labs
“In the startup ecosystem, Minnesota is very strong, and that’s an important indicator for the overall climate of the state and how we attract startups and new workers. The last five years have been especially powerful in terms of startup accelerators and corporate support to bolster startups. We’re seeing bigger and bigger funds being raised here, and that sustainability plus the wonderful quality of life are really driving growth. DEED’s Launch Minnesota program definitely helped me connect with Greater Minnesota entrepreneurs. We’re organizing ourselves to further accelerate growth, and the future is truly bright for innovation and startups.”
Dr. Adel Ali, Dean of the College of Science and Engineering at St. Cloud State University
“We’re all working together to prepare the workforce for the future. It’s happening by design here in Minnesota and that’s unique. It’s everyone from high schools to community colleges to large universities pulling together and creating new programs. We have to work together to educate and train workers so graduates have skills, including the soft skills, that employers need now and in the future. Innovation isn’t limited to the next best gadget. It’s also about new ways of partnering across industries and how we come up with ideas together.”
Tosh Brinkerhoff, President & CEO of Rotochopper
“Automation has benefitted our manufacturing company and the community. We’re not displacing the workforce, but rather investing in the workforce as we look for talent with the necessary skillsets and expertise to program and manage that automation. We’re actually helping address labor force issues with some higher-paying technical jobs.”
Jason Smith, President of AIT
“There’s an extremely high level of tech in St. Cloud as well as in Minnesota overall, and this is definitely linked to our strong education system and the collaboration between trade schools, businesses, manufacturing companies, and faculty and students at universities. As someone who started a business in Minnesota, I was able to find the high level of expertise I needed from groups like DEED and others to navigate that process of creating a business plan, finding funding, etc., and get off and running to become a successful business.”
Patti Gartland, President of Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation
“In Minnesota, our focus on workforce development and the quality of life here — plus our commitment to cross-sector collaboration — really set us apart and are critical for attracting and retaining talent and businesses. We also know we need to bring all the voices and perspectives together to come up with the most innovative solutions. We will continue focusing on prosperity and opportunity for all in Minnesota.
Meanwhile, DEED and the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank conducted a recent Minnesota Manufacturing Business Conditions Survey to gauge manufacturers’ recovery in 2021 and their outlook for 2022.
Mark Arend has been editor in chief of Site Selection magazine since 2001. Prior to joining the editorial staff in 1997, he worked for 10 years in New York City at Wall Street Computer Review, ABA Banking Journal and Global Investment Technology. Mark graduated from the University of Hartford (Conn.) in 1985 and lives near Atlanta, Georgia.