St. CLOUD – What do education, collaboration and quality of life have in common? According to business leaders in St.
Cloud Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove held a discussion Friday with St.
Not only does Minnesota have the highest five-year business survival rate of all 50 states, but per capita, the state is also home to a large number of Fortune 500 companies.
“We’re one of the toughest states in the country,” Grove said. “So once you move here, you see the education, the infrastructure, the family opportunity, it’s very hard to leave. And that’s not just an anecdote. We’ve seen the data.”
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Grove said St. Cloud has always been an “upward” area economically. Statewide, Grove said, 42% more businesses started in Minnesota in 2021 than in 2019.
“It’s just a really flexible and dynamic time in our economy, and it’s just important to have a conversation about where Minnesota is headed and why we think this is a great state to really flesh out the future of our economy,” he said.
It’s also a time when the state is facing significant workforce challenges and wants more people to make Minnesota their home, Grove said.
But what is not working in our favour?
“We can’t argue with the weather, of course,” said Dr. Adel Ali, dean of the College of Science and Engineering and director of the College of Computing, Engineering and Environment at St Cloud State University.
Committee members offered their thoughts on why Minnesota and Central Minnesota would be a great place to bring in this new business. Below are some of their reasons.
Access to resources
AIT President Jason Smith said that when he was working on starting AIT, a subsidiary of St. Cloud offering manufacturing, assembly, and contracting services to specific industries, his skills were more geared toward technology than business planning, finance, or other aspects of being a CEO.
“I was incredibly surprised at the ability of GSDC, DEED and other organizations to help us navigate this,” Smith said. He said that Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation was “helpful” in helping him start his business and make connections.
As a business, AIT relies heavily on equipment, Smith said, so the company had serious facility needs and significant equipment purchases to make. He said he was able to navigate these acquisitions thanks to the help of local organizations.
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“The most refreshing thing is just to see how much help there was and how many people were willing to help,” Smith said.
Ryan Webber, managing partner and co-founder of Great North Ventures, said the startup world in Minnesota has seen growth in the past few years that has increased the amount of venture capital funds, startup accelerators, and corporate support for entrepreneurs.
A number of committee members expressed their appreciation for the country’s education systems. Ali noted the teamwork between technical colleges, the community, regional universities, and research institutions.
“This collaboration is by design,” Ali said.
Smith also noted the desire of trade schools to design curricula to meet business needs. Webber said his access to school students and faculty in the region for collaboration is unparalleled.
GSDC President Patty Gartland has also listed several nearby higher education institutions.
“We are very strong in our post-secondary education sector,” she said.
strong manufacturing sector
The President and CEO of Rotochopper Inc. Tosh Brinkerhoff sees Minnesota’s expertise in manufacturing and technology as one reason companies consider the state as a place to start a business.
“We are a stronghold in the manufacturing sector, and there are a lot of types of high-tech manufacturing,” Gartland said, citing the manufacturing prowess of central Minnesota as one of the strengths of economic opportunity in the region.
Smith said AIT does a great deal of high-precision automation in manufacturing.
“People will have no evidence that there is this level of technology here in central Minnesota,” Smith said.
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Brinkerhoff said he has lived and worked in several states, and in Minnesota, he sees a strong work ethic among its workforce.
Smith noted how he and Gartland had in their previous careers of more than a decade (for Smith, more than two), and cited this as a sign of talent, dedication, and the longevity of the workforce.
quality of life
Weber had a list of features he appreciates about St.
Gartland said the area is committed to this quality of life. Brinkerhof said it was a great place to raise his family.
The spirit of cooperation
Gartland said she has seen GSDC’s work encourage collaboration between public partners, private foundations, educational leaders and nonprofit organizations allowing the organization to further “move the needle” in taking steps forward in the region. She said the region is committed to cross-sectoral collaboration.
“Our commitment to the workforce, workforce development, quality of life for all, prosperity for all, and then our commitment to working with each other to help make that happen is kind of what sets Minnesota apart,” Gartland said.
Sarah Kocher is a business reporter for The St. Cloud Times. You can reach her at 320-255-8799 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @BrothersOfficial.
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