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Manufacturing and Industry Leaders Share Insight with Commissioner Grove on Minnesota's Economic Strengths

St. Paul – Last Friday, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Commissioner Steve Grove hosted a roundtable focused on the "Build What Matters" campaign and how innovation, manufacturing, and support for startups and small businesses tie directly to ongoing economic growth.

Minnesota has long been home to businesses and people who make our state extraordinary. During the discussion, representatives from manufacturing, economic development, and venture capital shared how they are continuing that tradition.

"I love hearing from talented leaders and business owners about what makes Minnesota the best place to live and do business," said Steve Grove, DEED Commissioner. "We have a long history of building things that change the global economy for the better. 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."

Friday's conversation drew on what can be done to attract startups, workers, and new residents to the St. Cloud area and Minnesota – which in turn enhances the manufacturing and innovation opportunities and talent pipeline, as well as Minnesota's overall economy. The attributes that set Minnesota apart are outlined at

Roundtable attendees included:

• Ryan Weber, Managing Partner & Co-founder, Great North Labs

• Adel Ali, Dean of the College of Science and Engineering, St. Cloud State University

• Tosh Brinkerhoff, President & CEO, Rotochopper Inc.

• Jason Smith, President, AIT

• Patti Garland, President, Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation

"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 – and the last five years have been especially powerful in terms of startup accelerators and corporate support to bolster startups," said Ryan Weber, Managing Partner & Co-founder of Great North Labs. "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."

"We're all working together to prepare the workforce for the future," said Dr. Adel Ali, Dean of the College of Science and Engineering at St. Cloud State University. "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."

"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," said Tosh Brinkerhoff, President & CEO of Rotochopper. "We're actually helping address labor force issues with some higher-paying technical jobs."

"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," said Jason Smith, President of AIT. "And, 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."

"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," said Patti Garland, President of Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation. "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."

DEED is the state's principal economic development agency, promoting business recruitment, expansion and retention, workforce development, international trade and community development. For more details about the agency and its services, visit the DEED website, the website, or follow us on Twitter.


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