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Guest Editorial: Promoting Minnesota critical for attracting entrepreneurs

A recent report from Minnesota State Demographer Susan Brower showed that last year, Minnesota lost around 13,000 residents, a little over two people per 1,000 in the state.

EP Guest Editorial
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By DEED Commissioner Steve Grove, St. Paul, MN

In an economy that’s been disrupted in almost every way these past few years, it can be hard to point to one single indicator of how well we’re doing as a state. But in a highly competitive environment for workers and jobs, there's one question I find myself coming back to again and again: Where are people and businesses moving to?

The pandemic has made where you work more flexible than ever before, and new business starts are on the rise across the country. That kind of mobility and dynamism puts every state in a competitive marketplace.

A recent report from Minnesota State Demographer Susan Brower showed that last year, Minnesota lost around 13,000 residents, a little over two people per 1,000 in the state. While these numbers aren’t huge, they aren’t headed in the right direction — and they continue a broader trend over the last two decades, as outlined in the Minnesota Chamber’s “Minnesota 2030” report .

Business starts, on the other hand, have increased significantly in Minnesota. Entrepreneurs started 42% more businesses last year than in 2019. People are trying new things here and hoping to build Minnesota's next Fortune 500, which would bring new jobs and opportunity to our state.

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One thing is certain: In this moment of economic fluidity, we can’t afford to sit back and hope that Minnesota will come out on top. For far too long, Minnesota has been too humble about our considerable strengths.

That's why the Department of Employment & Economic Development recently launched a new platform at joinusmn.com , seeking to attract businesses and people to Minnesota. Our strong business climate, our talented workforce, and our quality of life all contribute to the case for, “Why Minnesota?”

The platform has a host of resources for what Minnesota offers, as well as rankings , stories , and regional snapshots.

The central theme of the message is rooted in positioning Minnesota as the “problem-solving capital” of the country. It's an idea backed by data: We have one of the hardest-working workforces in the country and one of the best business-survivability rates in the nation. The tagline “Build What Matters in Minnesota” elevates that people here care about what they do.

The result is an economy that has punched far above its weight for a long time, leading to many world-changing innovations in medicine, technology, agriculture, and beyond.

Recently, we’ve been holding roundtables across the state with business leaders and have been hearing an exuberance for what Minnesota has to offer the world.

“‘Why Minnesota? I like to say, ‘Why not Minnesota?!’ because it has so much to offer,” said Mark Emmel, president and COO of the Lion Hotel Group, at a recent roundtable in Duluth. “This includes a fantastic education system, which also helps with workforce development.”

At a Mankato roundtable, Jeff Chambers, founder of sports startup Kato Collar, said, “We raised slightly over $1 million in Minnesota to get my business going, and the Angel Tax Credit was a major factor in that fundraising because it gave us credibility with investors. Minnesota cities, counties, and state government are incredible resources for growing businesses."

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This legislative session, Gov. Tim Walz’s budget includes a recommendation for marketing dollars to promote Minnesota to key audiences, something other states do all the time. It is critical to share our message with those who’d consider moving to our state.

Promoting Minnesota on the global stage comes at a critical time. We know the view of our state these last few years has been influenced largely by the killing of George Floyd and the essential racial reckoning that followed. Our message must not ignore that fact but rather embrace that this is an inflection point in Minnesota. On our platform, we point to a host of examples of business, government, and community efforts to address racial disparities in our state.

We can be honest about our journey and still promote our state.

This is a critical juncture in the global economy. It demands bold action by states wanting to author the next chapter. And that means attracting more people and more business to Minnesota. We hope leaders across the state can embrace this new campaign to place Minnesota where it belongs: on a list of the best places to live and do business in the world.

Steve Grove, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, originally wrote this as an op-ed for the Duluth News Tribune .

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