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Echo Press Editorial: Economic development investments pay off

Here’s bright news about the economy at the state and local level:

According to a recently released study by the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, Minnesota has one of the fastest-growing state economies in the nation.

In fact, Minnesota tied California for fifth place in growth of gross domestic product, based on data for durable goods manufacturing, construction, mining, agriculture, wholesale trade and finance, and insurance.

Minnesota ranked eighth in the “Forbes 2013 List of the Best States for Business,” jumping 12 spots from a year earlier, based on its improving economy. And the state’s overall 2013 ranking was the biggest improvement of any state in Forbes’ eighth-annual study, which looks at six key metrics – costs, labor supply, regulatory environment, current economic climate, growth prospects and quality of life.

How did Minnesota achieve this? According to Pro Staff, a national staffing firm, much of Minnesota’s economic success can be attributed to the state government providing $108 million for various economic development programs in 2013, including:

• $30 million to the Minnesota Investment Fund for loans and grants to businesses for capital expenditures and job creation.

• $24 million to the Minnesota Job Creation Fund for grants to businesses investing in Minnesota and creating jobs.

• $8.3 million to the Job Skills Partnership Program for training grants for businesses and higher-education institutions.

• $6 million to Minnesota Redevelopment Assistance for grants to help with private redevelopment of property that fosters economic expansion.

The investments also appear to be paying off in Greater Minnesota.

The Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission says that the labor force in Douglas County, including Alexandria, is growing in all age groups. While there is a significant projected increase in residents aged 65 and older during the coming years, Douglas County is also seeing a general increase in the number of individuals in their “prime working years,” from ages 25 to 54.

The total Douglas County labor force is projected to increase by 22 percent to 23,850 workers, during the period from 2005 to 2035.

The major industry clusters - manufacturing, health care, professional services, education, tourism and retail – employ approximately 17,000 people throughout Douglas County. We need to protect those jobs and create more opportunities in the future. The latest numbers are a promising sign we’re on the right track.