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Rebekah Kent, Published May 02 2010

Minnesotans need to create, invest and innovate to succeed

We Minnesotans pride ourselves on being “above average,” to quote Garrison Keillor.

Lately, however, our status as above average with regard to the economy has been slipping. Last week, the Star Tribune reported that in March 2010, Minnesota lost 1,800 jobs, while the United States added 162,000 jobs.

Much has been said regarding how to create jobs in this economy. Frankly, the issue has been talked about enough. It is time for us to take action and do what Minnesota has done exceptionally well in its 152-year history as a state: invent, create and work our way to the top.

This isn’t a call to action for the Legislature or the state government, although they have an important role to play. It is a call to action for the residents of Minnesota. We need to take action at an individual level to change our destiny and keep Minnesota above average. It means doing things that are often uncomfortable for Minnesotans, such as promoting ourselves, taking risks and getting involved.

Minnesotans are good at being humble. We dislike tooting our own horns. In the global age, humility does us a major disservice.

One way that we can help Minnesota stay above average with regard to the economy is to tell the Minnesota story to everyone we know. For example, whenever we talk to someone not familiar with Minnesota’s capabilities, we should mention how Minnesota is home to 21 Fortune 500 companies, the most per capita of any state in the nation, and the seventh highest in total numbers. Another example is to tell people that the quality of life in Minnesota consistently ranks as one of the highest in the nation.

Minnesotans are also relatively risk-averse as a whole. While some restraint is important, nothing exciting in life ever happens without some risk. In order to pull ourselves out of this economic slump, we need to invent, create and innovate. By definition, invention, creation and innovation can’t happen without some risk.

Minnesota has been very successful in reinventing itself in the past. It’s time for us to take a deep breath and stick our necks out on the line and leapfrog Minnesota into economic growth like we have done in the past.

If we fail to act, we risk moving from above average to average, or even (gasp!) to below average. Failing to act has kept Minnesota from major economic expansion in the past.

In my job with the BioBusiness Alliance of Minnesota, I am exposed to new capabilities in human health technology, agricultural bioscience, renewable energy and clean technology every day. The bioscience industry is only one color in Minnesota’s economic palette. We have the capabilities in Minnesota to compete on a global level. We just need to act, now. Together, we can keep Minnesota above average.

Kent is senior program manager, BioBusiness Alliance of Minnesota,

St. Louis Park.