Minnesota may be the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” but it is also the Land of Opportunity for companies and small businesses that are looking for the perfect spot to lay roots and grow.
The state has been booming since the end of the Great Recession, adding nearly 300,000 jobs and drawing scores of new ventures attracted to Minnesota’s positive business vibe and venerated workforce.
Minnesota consistently rates among the top states when it comes to business activity. CNBC ranked Minnesota fourth overall in its 2016 list of “America’s Top States for Business,” citing the state’s quality of life (second), education (second), infrastructure (fifth) and technology and innovation (ninth).
The 24/7 Wall Street financial news website rated Minnesota second on its 2016 list of best-run states, pointing to such criteria as low rates of unemployment, poverty and debt per capita. WalletHub last year named Minnesota the best state for women, based on factors such as female earnings, unemployment rates, business ownership and life expectancy.
An educated and productive workforce and a strong mix of businesses are two of the factors driving the state’s economic success.
Minnesota has a large and talented pool of workers, from skilled high-tech and scientific professionals to well-trained workers in the trades and production. The state’s labor force participation rate is among the highest in the country at 68.8 percent.
Education, a hallmark of the state for decades, is reflected in the quality of Minnesota workers. Minnesota ranks third among states for the percentage of the population with a high school degree and 11th for the percentage of population with a bachelor’s degree or higher. More than one-third of the state’s residents have a college degree ‒ tops in the Midwest.
The state’s industrial mix includes 17 Fortune 500 companies in such fields as retail, banking, food production, medical technology and health care. Best Buy, 3M, General Mills and Target are among the household names with headquarters in Minnesota. Cargill Inc., founded in 1865 and now the largest privately-held company in the United States, is based in Wayzata.
Entrepreneurship and innovation are practically baked into the DNA of Minnesotans. Earl Bakken’s invention of the implantable pacemaker in a Minneapolis garage in 1957 gave birth to a major corporation (Medtronic) and a medical device sector that today employs 29,000 people in the state.
Another bastion of innovation is 3M, founded in the Lake Superior town of Two Harbors in 1902. The company has been issued more 100,000 patents in its history, from Scotch Tape to Post-it Notes to Breathe Right nasal strips. Now based in the Twin Cities, 3M does more than $30 billion annually in worldwide business.
The Minnesota Cup is keeping the state’s spirit of entrepreneurialism alive today. The largest startup competition in the country offers more than $400,000 in prize money annually, along with mentoring, training and support, to Minnesota entrepreneurs with the latest bright idea. More than 1,500 teams entered the 2016 competition.
The state also has a wealth of programs that are driving job and business growth. One of the most successful programs is the Job Creation Fund, which was first proposed by Governor Mark Dayton in 2013. The program provides grants to businesses in exchange for job creation and investment commitments.
Since the program was launched more than three years ago, the state has awarded $33.3 million for 75 business expansion projects in Minnesota. Companies, in turn, have committed to creating nearly 4,600 full-time jobs and investing more than $1 billion. Projects in the past year include the following:
- U.S. Bank, which announced plans to build a $250 million data center in Chaska in partnership with Dallas-based Stream Data Centers. The company will begin construction this spring and complete the project in early 2018.
- Life Fitness, an exercise equipment manufacturer that said it will add 110 jobs as part of a $22.9 million expansion of its factory in the southern Minnesota city of Owatonna. The company said production will double after the 150,000-square-foot addition is completed.
- Microbiologics Inc., a worldwide supplier of microorganisms and lab-testing products that is planning to build a 30,000-square-foot addition and create 35 jobs in a $7.24 million expansion and renovation of its headquarters in St. Cloud.
The state’s Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program is helping to build a broadband system that will bring high-speed internet to homes, schools, businesses and community institutions across Minnesota.
The system will level the playing field so that small towns can compete with cities to attract the businesses and workers they need to keep growing. More than $34 million was awarded for 42 projects in the latest round of funding in January.
One of the state’s newest and most promising initiatives is the Minnesota Emerging Entrepreneur Program, which was launched last year to provide loans to new and existing businesses owned by communities of color, low-income people, women, veterans and people with disabilities.
“These funds are designed to unlock the creative energy of entrepreneurs across our great state. For people who dare to dream, the program makes the impossible possible regardless of where they live,” said Shawntera Hardy, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
The program is a part of $35 million in funding that was approved by the Minnesota Legislature last year to break down barriers to training, careers and entrepreneurship in the state. The goal of the funding is to create a more equitable Minnesota where all demographic groups have an opportunity to flourish.
The funding will help the state to build a larger and more diverse workforce to meet the future employment needs of companies and small businesses.
With its strong workforce, positive business culture and state initiatives that encourage growth, Minnesota is a national model for building an economy that works. Thanks to new programs focused on developing the next generation of workers and businesses, the state is positioned to succeed well into the future.
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Captions: Education is a hallmark of Minnesota. More than one-third of the state’s residents have a college degree – tops in the Midwest.
Minneapolis is home to many of Minnesota’s Fortune 500 companies