Rick King, Eagan, MInn., column: Minnesota must build its 'idea infrastructure'
By Rick King EAGAN, Minn. -- For more than 70 years, Minnesota was at the forefront of innovations in medical devices, computers and other technologies that spawned the highest number of Fortune 500 companies per capita of any state. But over the...
By Rick King
EAGAN, Minn. -- For more than 70 years, Minnesota was at the forefront of innovations in medical devices, computers and other technologies that spawned the highest number of Fortune 500 companies per capita of any state.
But over the past decade, the global economy -- and our position in it -- has changed. Minnesota ranked 42nd among states for economic growth from 2004 to 2007, though we had led this measure for decades prior.
This change reflects shifts in the global landscape. Our state's economic competition no longer is limited to South Dakota, Wisconsin or even California. Instead, Minnesota competes against countries such as China and India, who now provide many of the goods and services that once were the backbone of our economy.
Other states have recognized this fact and have responded with admirable statewide growth strategies. Ohio recently passed its third $700 million bond to support start-up companies and high-tech jobs. Texas has developed special funds to make strategic investments in economic development and growth technology projects.
And these investments are paying off. A recent study found that half of America's new jobs created in 2010 were in Texas.
No matter the outcome of the impending recount, Minnesota's next governor and the newly-elected Legislature will be tasked with spurring our state's economy within this global context.
I believe that future will hinge upon three key strategies:
** Invest in R&D.
Minnesota's 76 public, private and technical colleges have the potential to generate inventions of the future.
Considering that start-up companies developed from the commercialization of university and other research generate 10 percent of all new jobs in any given year -- despite constituting only 1 percent of companies -- strategic investments in Minnesota's innovation engines, including our university system, must be an important economic development strategy for the state.
** Build our idea infrastructure.
The broadband internet is today's interstate highway system -- a complex network designed to move goods to markets far and wide. It has the potential to connect the state's businesses, innovations and ideas to markets around the world.
And broadband will foster even greater job growth potential. A recent study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that demand for jobs dependent on broadband access are projected to grow by 25 percent from 2008 to 2018.
With such potential, Minnesota must dedicate itself to becoming a national and global leader in broadband speeds and connectivity. We can't afford not to.
Expand transportation to move our greatest product: Our people.
More than 80 percent of Minnesota's economy is in the knowledge and service sectors -- industries that rely on human interaction to succeed.
My experience at Thomson Reuters is one example. I often travel to our offices in other cities and countries. On each trip, I see the economic opportunities that come from business travelers who move through hub airports to offices, meetings and destinations.
Making Minnesota a transportation hub will require a statewide plan for connecting our population centers with others across the nation and must be part of our state's economic development plans.
Thanks to the work of nonpartisan volunteer commissions and task forces, our new governor and Legislature will take office with clear recommendations to begin building Minnesota's new economy. My hope is that our incoming leaders will embrace these recommendations and their potential for our state with the same enthusiasm and support as have past legislative leaders and administrations.
I believe I can speak for all past commission and task force members in saying that Minnesota will be with them in the effort.
King is chief technology officer for Thomson Reuters in Eagan and a member of Minnesota's Science and Technology Authority's Advisory Commission.