Economic development may include melting a Minnesota reticence to let actions speak louder than words
BAXTER — Everyone can be part of economic growth.
At least that was part of the message Friday at the Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development (BLAEDC) annual meeting at Arrowwood Lodge at Brainerd Lakes in Baxter.
Kathleen M. Schmidlkofer, the guest speaker at the annual event, came from the fledgling, year-old Greater MSP, where she is executive vice president.
Greater MSP is a new private-public regional economic development partnership. Schmidlkofer said everyone is an ambassador for the state.
While residents may tend to talk about the weather when discussing the state with those outside its borders, there is much more to Minnesota than a cold winter.
Stimulating economic interest and influx of talented workers to meet future workforce demands may mean thawing a Minnesota tendency to let a person’s effort speak for itself.
Greater MSP was created to stimulate economic growth particularly in the 13-county area around the Twin Cities, which has a population of about three million. Schmidlkofer said the organization was created to provide a regional focus, something BLAEDC was already starting to do 25 years ago.
Schmidlkofer’s private sector background is as a finance executive with General Mills with most recent assignments as vice president, finance for the meals and Yoplait divisions; and vice president, finance for the General Mills Canadian Subsidiary located in Toronto, Canada.
Schmidlkofer said 75 percent of job growth in the Twin Cities comes from small businesses. She said the Greater MSP came together as a regional effort aimed at coming out of the recession in a stronger way than the metro area went into it.
To do that Greater MSP studied the economic strengths, capabilities and challenges. Schmidlkofer said Greater MSP acts as a marketing and promotional arm of the region, which is populated by a people with a natural tendency not to speak out about themselves.
“We tend to be humble and let our work speak for ourselves but that doesn’t work in attracting business,” Schmidlkofer said, adding in that respect people have to be loud and proud.
From the region’s demographics even if every child could be made job ready by 2020, Schmidlkofer said there would still be a workforce shortage. Visitors and tourists present an opportunity, Schmidlkofer said and what can make a difference is how people talk and feel about the area. She got a laugh when she said Minnesotans tend to talk about the weather, which may or may not be a plus.
“You are ambassadors to the lakes area,” Schmidlkofer said. Greater MSP produced a video promoting things people may not know about the state and highlighting attributes of trees, water, recreation, careers and quality of life, along with Fortune 500 companies.
On its website, Greater MSP reports Minnesota outperformed all other Midwest states in the 2010 Kaufman Foundation’s “State New Economy Index,” which recognizes states ‘at the forefront of the nation’s movement toward a global, innovation-based new economy.”