Dayton starts economic listening tour in Willmar

Governor seeks job opportunities in growing sectors of state’s economy

Gov. Mark Dayton

ST. PAUL, MN – Gov. Mark Dayton was in Willmar today on the first stop of a statewide listening tour to identify both opportunities for future economic growth and barriers to that growth in key sectors of the state’s economy.

Dayton announced Thursday that he will meet directly with business owners, workers and local leaders in the coming months about the state’s economy. The governor said he seeks input on what measures should be taken in the upcoming legislative session to enhance Minnesota’s economic competitiveness, stimulate private sector job growth, and open new doors of employment opportunity for Minnesota workers.

“As Minnesota’s economy continues to recover from one of the worst recessions in our nation’s history, we need to do more to ensure that our state is well positioned to compete in a global economy,” Dayton said. “That means investing in our people, ensuring an enviable workforce, and fostering the natural resources that have been the foundation of our economy. In the coming months, I am going to be traveling across Minnesota to listen to industry leaders and workers across the state about the challenges they are facing and what we can do in the next legislative session to put more Minnesotans back to work.”

Dayton said the tour will help guide his administration’s ongoing efforts to make Minnesota a more competitive place to do business — particularly in emerging industries with high growth potential.

The governor’s listening tour begins with a focus on eight high-potential sectors of Minnesota’s economy, including forestry, bioscience, mining, agriculture technology, healthcare technology, information technology, the plastics and composites industry, and tourism.

These industries currently employ more than 395,000 Minnesotans, generate $16.3 billion in annual wages, and contribute more than $40 billion in economic activity. Supporting competitive growth in these industries is vital to the immediate and future strength of Minnesota’s economy. Other key industries will be added, as the tour progresses.

Forestry and Logging: In 2011, the forest products industry contributed more than 27,000 direct Minnesota jobs totaling more than $1.3 billion in wages. The total value of forest products produced in Minnesota is estimated at $8.6 billion. Ensuring a long-term supply of wood through sustainable forest management, and facilitating collaboration between conventional forest industries and the emerging bio-based industry are essential to maintaining long-term growth of the forest industry.

Bioscience: The bioscience industry employs 35,000 Minnesota workers. Roughly 80 percent of these jobs are in the medical device industry. Most are high-paying jobs that require a highly educated workforce. Innovations that emerge from the bioscience industry have a large impact on Minnesota’s overall economy and quality of life.

Mining: Minnesota is one of the world’s largest producers of iron ore with over 100 million tons of taconite being mined each year. In 2011 the mining industry contributed over 5,800 direct Minnesota jobs totaling $474 million in wages. Minnesota is also home to four billion ton deposits of critical and strategic metals. Finding a balance between the economic and strategic value of these deposits and protecting Minnesota’s critical habitats is important for Minnesota’s future.

Agriculture Technology: Agriculture is in the midst of a high-tech revolution. Entrepreneurial companies and organizations in Minnesota are developing some of the technologies at the center of this revolution. Innovations that emerge from this sector will have a high export growth potential and a large overall impact on Minnesota’s economy. Agriculture and food production technology industry contributed over 4,800 direct jobs totaling $250 million in wages. The innovative technologies that emerge from this industry help support economic growth in the $8.2 billion agriculture production industry.

Medical device industry: There are 585 medical device companies in Minnesota. The five largest medical device firms in Minnesota (Medtronic, 3M, Boston Scientific, St. Jude Medical, and American Medical Systems) generate more than $22 billion in sales. There are roughly 29,351 workers in this industry with 16,061 employed in the manufacturing of medical devices totaling $1.21 billion in wages.

Information technology: Minnesota has a long history of leadership in the information technology industry. In 2011, the information technology industry contributed over 96,378 direct Minnesota jobs totaling more than $8.1 billion in wages. Jobs in this industry are in high demand and offer above-average wages of $37 per hour, on average.

Plastics and composites industry: Minnesota is an important leader in the plastics and composites industry. The plastics and composites industry employs more than 23,000 Minnesotans totaling more than $1.1 billion in wages.

Tourism: In 2011, the tourism, hospitality and leisure industry contributed more than 239,000 direct Minnesota jobs totaling more than $4.1 billion in wages. Tourism is an $11.3 billion annual industry in Minnesota, employing roughly 235,000 workers and tourism spending accounts for 17 percent of the state’s sales tax revenue. As the travel season comes to a close, Minnesota resort owners have seen the best summer business since the recession began. Continuing that momentum is important to the strength of Minnesota’s tourism industry, supporting jobs in communities statewide.

Last week, Dayton met with logging industry leaders and earlier this month he met with the Minnesota Forest Industries Board of Directors. Additional visits to Minnesota paper mills are also planned for the listening tour.