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MN2020: Economic Development http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-development A growing Minnesota is a prosperous, secure Minnesota. Fri, 10 Jul 2020 23:44:20 -0500 A Public Role in Rail’s Big Battles? http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-development/a-public-role-in-rails-big-battles http://mn2020.org/8823 <p> By Conrad deFiebre, Transportation Fellow </p> <p> It's been a while since an oil train exploded anywhere in America, so the red-hot controversy over shipping North Dakota crude by rail has cooled, only to be replaced by another involving the Engine that Divides Us. This one's a heavyweight slugfest between the railroads and the giants of U.S. agriculture and industry.</p> <p> While about 50 unit trains of Bakken petroleum keep chugging through Minnesota every week en route to distant refineries, practically every other commodity has been plagued by rail shipment delays or prohibitively higher carload rates. As bipartisan federal lawmakers <a href="http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/218092-senate-panel-approves-freight-rail-oversight-changes">reviewed decades-old railroad deregulation,</a> 24 trade groups representing chemical, steel, cement, plastics, paper and fertilizer industries wrote Senate leaders to complain about a costly, time-consuming process for challenging rate increases before the Surface Transportation Board, <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-21/cargo-rates-trigger-shipper-backlash-as-u-s-rails-soar.html">Bloomberg News reported.</a></p> <p> Then, leaders of the National Farmers Union descended on Washington to protest a railcar shortage that, at a time of bumper crops and depressed grain prices, is further eroding profits, in some cases due to fines for late deliveries. &quot;It should really be imposed on the railroad that did not deliver on time, not the grain deliverer,&quot; Doug Sombke, the South Dakota Farmers Union president, told <a href="http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2014-09-08/midwest-railcar-shortage-debate-shifts-to-dc">Bloomberg Businessweek.</a></p> <p> Industrial companies are fighting the railroads mainly over price and relative profitability. Depending on where you set the baseline, rail shipping rates have almost doubled (since 2001, according to the American Chemistry Council) or fallen by nearly half adjusted for inflation (since the 1980 Staggers Act deregulation, according to the Association of American Railroads). Stock-market appreciation for the railroads, which have consolidated from about 40 Class I lines pre-Staggers to seven today, has far outstripped that of chemical firms as measured by Standard &amp; Poor's indexes, however.</p> <p> &quot;There will always be an ongoing debate between the shippers and the rails,&quot; transport analyst Justin Long told Bloomberg News.</p> <p> That's been true since the 1800s, but the challenges Upper Midwest farmers face to ship their crops today may be unprecedented. With Bakken oil hogging the rails, allegedly in exchange for under-the-table payment premiums, 100 million bushels of grain sat in Minnesota elevators and another 100 million bushels were stored on farms, the <a href="http://www.startribune.com/politics/statelocal/272935011.html">Star Tribune</a> reported in late August.</p> <p> &quot;When you're sitting in a grain elevator waiting for cars to load, and every day you see oil trains pass by, it just adds insult to injury,&quot; Bob Zelenka of the Minnesota Grain and Feed Association told the newspaper. Meanwhile, a state corn harvest estimated at 1.3 billion bushels is about to begin.</p> <p> Not all of that bounty will move by rail. Much of it usually goes downriver by barge, and it's likely that some along rail lines will be switched to big trucks. But that may pile more costs on Minnesota farmers who lost $109 million in revenue during just three spring months this year, mainly because of shipping problems, the state Department of Agriculture reported.</p> <p> <a href="http://bismarcktribune.com/news/state-and-regional/big-harvest-adds-to-railroad-woes/article_7e243cfe-1f7c-11e4-a8f2-001a4bcf887a.html">The Bismarck Tribune</a> reported in August that access to rail cars was fetching up to $4,000 on a secondary market, and that some millers paid an extra $1.50 a bushel for over-the-road trucking when their grain supplies ran short. North Dakota officials signed a deal with the Port of Vancouver, Wash., to send non-farm products from the Pacific Ocean port by 180 dedicated rail cars that will regularly return loaded with Peace Garden State grain.</p> <p> &quot;We cannot store our way to prosperity,&quot; Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring told the <a href="http://bismarcktribune.com/news/state-and-regional/deal-with-wash-port-will-send-rail-cars-to-n/article_4ad2c934-2e49-11e4-aea0-001a4bcf887a.html">Forum News Service.</a>&nbsp;Some critics questioned the food safety of shipping grain in boxcars that also carry cement, fertilizer and other products, but desperate times call for desperate measures.&nbsp;</p> <p> How desperate is it? The Surface Transportation Board can order railroads to prioritize some shipments over others but rarely does so, according to another <a href="http://www.columbian.com/news/2014/sep/04/regulators-urged-to-pressure-railroads-on-grain-bo/">Bloomberg News report.</a>&nbsp;A board spokesman said it intervenes only to avoid &quot;substantial adverse effects.&quot;</p> <p> In recent weeks, bipartisan elected leaders from conservatives in the Dakotas to Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton have suggested the time for action has arrived. As an anticipated record harvest approaches, &quot;There's great apprehension in how things will go this fall,&quot; North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple told the board at a hearing in Fargo. Dayton wrote to the board of &quot;the dire circumstances that Minnesota farmers face and the need for increased accountability and clarity&quot; from the railroads.</p> <p> Balancing the transport needs of the nation's agriculture, energy and industrial sectors -- as well as Amtrak passenger timetables <a href="http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/216728-amtrak-exec-freight-delays-hurt-ridership">severely disrupted</a> by rail bottlenecks -- is a difficult but necessary job. An opaque deregulated market seems to be making a mess of it. Could some old-fashioned government command and control do any worse?</p> Thu, 25 Sep 2014 11:00:37 +0000 The Sun Drives Economic Development in Minnesota http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-development/the-sun-drives-economic-development-in-minnesota http://mn2020.org/8820 <p> By Lee Egerstrom, Economic Development Fellow </p> <p> Minnesotans are squinting up at the sun and leaning into the wind in efforts to link their pocketbooks and the natural environment to benefit both from clean energy development and economic development.</p> <p> We now get about 15 percent of our total electricity generated by windmills on wind farms, primarily in southern and southwestern Minnesota. We have goals of generating 1.5 percent of our electricity need by 2020 from solar energy development, but the flurry of development activity currently underway suggests that may be a low target.</p> <p> Economics and &ldquo;green&rdquo; energy development are merging with solar developments, insists David Wakely of Minnesota Community Solar in Minneapolis, the firm that has developed the first &ldquo;community solar gardens&rdquo; that feed electricity into Xcel Energy&rsquo;s distribution territory.</p> <p> Minnesota Community Solar (MNCS) is now expanding into rural communities. It announced in August it is building a four-acre Gaylord Community Solar Garden in the Gaylord Industrial Park west of the Twin Cities. The project is a partnership with local social entrepreneurs Steve Mangold and Paula King with Mangold&rsquo;s Front Row Energy company.</p> <p> Similar rural-sited projects are on the drawing board, Wakely said.</p> <p> With the Gaylord project, residents of Carver, Le Sueur, McLeod, Nicollet, Renville, Scott and Sibley counties in Xcel Energy&rsquo;s distribution areas can &ldquo;subscribe,&rdquo; or contract for solar produced energy. Subscribers select the number of units, or &ldquo;leaves&rdquo; that suit their household or business needs. Current projections show they may save as much as 35 percent off their electricity bills during the 25-years of the contract.</p> <p> The rapid spread and development of solar energy generation is explained by David Shaffer in a recent <a href="http://www.startribune.com/business/271475131.html" target="_blank">Star Tribune</a> article and by Bob Shaw in the <a href="http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_25395983/developer-looking-build-solar-panel-field-woodbury" target="_blank">St. Paul Pioneer Press</a>. Their articles work as a primer for interested people for whom solar energy development also introduces new applied technology terminology, such as solar gardens, leaf and leaves, and the larger collection of solar panels called arrays.</p> <p> From an economic viewpoint, however, the current spark of solar energy development does show a marriage of increasingly popular objectives with enlightened public policy. A 2013 Minnesota law makes this development possible, and the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) recently rationalized how solar energy can be valued and priced.</p> <p> At Gaylord, the sun will do most of the heavy work after construction so it won&rsquo;t be a big jobs producer, said city administrator Kevin McCann. But, he said, the city will be a subscriber and will benefit over time from lower energy costs. Moreover, it will be an incentive for companies to locate and expand at Gaylord.</p> <p> From another angle, solar development is economic development because MNCS is using Minnesota made products and technology &ldquo;when possible.&rdquo; The solar collecting panels, for instance, are made in Bloomington.</p> <p> Living wages are being paid, and local products are intentionally used. &ldquo;We aren&rsquo;t in the &lsquo;race to the bottom.&rsquo; We aren&rsquo;t going after products where we could get them the cheapest,&rdquo; said MNCS&rsquo; Wakely.</p> <p> All this spills over with growth in a technology-based new industry. In March this year, the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) and Midwest Renewable Energy Association held a solar conference at the University of St. Thomas that acknowledged both the rapid growth of solar in Minnesota and the catching up work still needed.</p> <p> They noted in materials for the conference that Minnesota had 864 solar jobs in 2013, a 72 percent increase from the previous year. But that ranked Minnesota 31st among states and the District of Columbia.</p> <p> Another quantum leap in solar employment can be expected this year based on the projects described by Shaffer and Shaw that are in various stages of planning and development around the state.</p> <p> On another bright note, solar energy development appeals to entrepreneurs and investors who have social goals combining economic and environmental sustainability, said Wakely. That is evident with the partnership MNCS has with social investor Mangold and his wife King, at Gaylord. King is the founding dean of St. Catherine University&rsquo;s School of Business and Leadership.</p> <p> The management team at Minnesota Community Solar also fit that mold. They include founder Dustin Denison who worked in mechanical and electrical trades before starting Applied Energy Innovations, a Minneapolis-based solar installation company. Others include various environmental activists, like Wakely and subscription manager Dana Hallstrom, and researchers and designers such as co-founder Peter Teigland and Steve Coleman.</p> <p> Earlier this year, MNCS teamed with Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church in south Minneapolis to place a community solar garden atop the congregation&rsquo;s education building &ndash; the first such project with a faith-based organization.</p> <p> The convergence of interests with clean technology attracts attention. The Minnesota High Tech Association recently nominated Minnesota Community Solar for its annual Tekne Energy Award along with Ecolab, of St. Paul; and RA Knowledge, of Minneapolis. In all, the high tech association makes 12 different awards among 36 innovative nominees.</p> <p> Nominated companies include huge, well-established companies with innovative products such as 3M, of Maplewood, on down to start-ups of less than three years that include Gravie, Minneapolis; NimbeLink, Plymouth, and NxThera, Maple Grove.</p> <p> Presentation of the <a href="http://www.mhta.org/event/tekne-awards/" target="_blank">Tekne Awards</a> will be made Nov.13 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.</p> Wed, 24 Sep 2014 11:59:46 +0000 VIDEO: Bringing Fresh Produce to the Community http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-development/video-bringing-fresh-produce-to-the-community http://mn2020.org/8808 <p> By Briana Johnson, {related_entries id="article_author_blogger"}Briana Johnson, Video Production Specialist </p> <p> Fresh fruits and vegetables can be very expensive, especially in many low-income areas. Expense along with access to local grocery stores in North Minneapolis have proven to make it difficult for some families to have fresh, healthy food. NorthPoint along with community partners, Project Sweetie Pie, Gardening Matters and others joined together to provide free produce for community members. Project Sweetie Pie provided free seeds along with demonstrations on how to plant your own crops and ways to take care of plants both indoors and out.</p> <p> Minnesota 2020 headed over to North Minneapolis to learn more.<br /> &nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> </p> Mon, 22 Sep 2014 11:42:46 +0000 What’s the Buzz on Bees? http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-development/video-whats-the-buzz-on-bees http://mn2020.org/8797 <p> By Briana Johnson, {related_entries id="article_author_blogger"}Briana Johnson, Video Production Specialist </p> <p> Honey bees are in trouble and fifth graders in the Minneapolis public school&rsquo;s S.T.E.M. program are learning what to do to help them. Honey bees are the most viable indicators of a global threat to our food security. The bees play a major role in our food system and agriculture depends greatly on the honeybee for pollination of fruits and vegetables but due to their loss of habitat, our methods of agriculture, and use of pesticides, the honey bee is in trouble.</p> <p> Minnesota 2020 headed to the University of Minnesota&rsquo;s Bell Museum to learn more about bees and what humans can do to help. As we learn, one way is to simply plant different types of flowers.</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> </p> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 11:17:06 +0000 Naming Rights Reveal Importance of Farms, Food in Minnesota http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-development/naming-rights-reveal-importance-of-farms-food-in-minnesota http://mn2020.org/8794 <p> By Lee Egerstrom, Economic Development Fellow </p> <p> Minnesotans were reminded recently that food and agriculture remain huge drivers of the state&rsquo;s economy when two of the largest home-based companies stepped forward to acquire naming rights to new facilities in the Twin Cities.</p> <p> At first glance, it seemed like business as usual. Nothing new here except the signage. But that doesn&rsquo;t begin to tell the story.</p> <p> On one level, Land O&rsquo;Lakes&rsquo; $25 million grant to the University of Minnesota and CHS Inc.&rsquo;s purchase of naming rights to the St. Paul Saints&rsquo; new ballpark reveal how big, successful and integrated into the global economy these farmer-owned cooperatives have become.</p> <p> More broadly, they remind us how huge agriculture, food manufacturing, marketing and related food and ag support services, such as finance and logistics, sectors are in this state. Although Minnesota has a diversified and constantly changing economy, the farm and food connection remains a pillar supporting what we do and how we live here.</p> <p> The accompanying table shows the enormity and diversity of Minnesota-based food and agriculture companies.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <a href="/assets/uploads/article/mn_agbusiness" target="_blank"><img alt="Minnesota: Land O'Lake and Land O'Foods" src="/assets/uploads/article/mn_agbusiness" style="width: 600px; height: 397px;" /></a></p> <p> These are just some of Minnesota&rsquo;s largest. There are hundreds more ranging from mom-and-pop retail stores to large retailers like Kowalski&rsquo;s, Coborn&rsquo;s and Lunds and Byerly&rsquo;s; other wholesalers that include the former Nash Finch side of what is now SpartanNash and Mason Brothers, restaurants are all part of this big family of food related sectors, and countless other firms that provide services, ingredients, or do manufacturing of food and ag products.</p> <p> The table above lists C.H. Robinson as a full-fledged player in Minnesota food and ag. Yes, it is a transportation company. But you would be hard pressed to find fresh fruit in winter that wasn&rsquo;t handled by this former Grand Forks, N.D. potato warehousing company.</p> <p> The complexity and reach of the food and ag supply chain in Minnesota was reflected in the <a href="http://www.landolakesinc.com/utility/news/company/ECMP2-0186273">Land O&rsquo;Lakes</a> grant to the University of Minnesota. In the Sept. 2 announcement of the grant, the Arden Hills-based co-op noted it would be supporting student athletes and academic programs.</p> <p> &ldquo;Land O&rsquo;Lakes has doubled in size over the past five years and is committed to grow its food and agricultural businesses both domestically and internationally,&rdquo; company president and chief executive Christopher Policinski said in the statement. &ldquo;It is going to take high caliber talent to achieve our business goals.&rdquo;</p> <p> The grant includes major support, with naming rights, for a new center in the University&rsquo;s planned Athletics Village complex. And it includes research grants, teaching and scholarship support for the U&rsquo;s College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences, the Carlson School of Management, and the College of Science and Engineering.</p> <p> While this represented what the University called &ldquo;one of the largest single corporate commitments in University history,&rdquo; it also continues what University President Eric Kaler said was a &ldquo;40-plus-year partnership&rdquo; between the U and the company.</p> <p> About 300,000 dairy farmers across the country own Land O&rsquo;Lakes directly and indirectly through local co-ops. Founded here 93 years ago as an association of local creameries, it now does business in all 50 states and 60 countries.</p> <p> All the while, it has drawn talent from the University of Minnesota and other land grant colleges and universities where skills are honed to support the food chain from fields to tables. They are not alone in using and supporting these academic to application resources; one of the world&rsquo;s most sophisticated laboratories working on plant diseases that threaten the world&rsquo;s food supply is in the Cargill Building on the St. Paul campus.</p> <p> In May this year, Minnesota 2020 observed that the Big Ten Conference is essentially <a href="http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-development/food-farming-and-football-connected-by-research">&ldquo;a league of &lsquo;farm&rsquo; teams.&rdquo;</a> Northwestern University is the only member of the conference that isn&rsquo;t a land grant institution, and food and ag companies closely tied to the universities largely support televised Big Ten athletic events.</p> <p> What&rsquo;s more, farmers know how connected they are to the diverse sciences of modern food production. In 2012, the last year for which completed data, farmers in Iowa had $23.7 billion in farm expenses, Nebraska farmers paid out $19.2 billion, and Minnesota farmers had $15.5 billion in expenses. New Jersey farmers, tied to new member Rutgers, had more than $900 million in farming-related expenses.</p> <p> That&rsquo;s the ground level. Food really gets big in Minnesota when it leaves the farm. Along the way, the University has supported these firms by educating and training accountants and agronomists, biologists and brokers, chemists and climatologists, dieticians and &hellip; run the alphabet. With feed manufacturing and animal health companies as well, you can include zoologists.</p> <p> The big business connection showed itself with <a href="http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_26490803/st-paul-saints-stadium-to-be-named-chs-field">CHS, of Inver Grove Heights</a>, buying the naming rights to the new downtown baseball stadium in St. Paul. At the announcement, CHS&rsquo; president and chief executive Carl Casale acknowledged the general public knows the co-op&rsquo;s products, such as Cenex gasoline, Dean&rsquo;s Dips and Marie&rsquo;s salad dressings; but little about the company itself.</p> <p> Here at home, Minnesotans should be reminded of this food and agriculture strength every time they drive past CHS Field, the Cargill Building, or see reference to the Land O&rsquo;Lakes facility at the U. This strength is still building muscle.</p> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 11:00:11 +0000 VIDEO: Tech Crawl http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-development/video-tech-crawl http://mn2020.org/8783 <p> By Briana Johnson, {related_entries id="article_author_blogger"}Briana Johnson, Video Production Specialist </p> <p> Budding entrepreneurs and innovators seeking strategic advice, resources and networking opportunities had the opportunity to join in a series of 20 events across the metro during the first ever Twin Cities Startup Week.</p> <p> Minnesota 2020 headed out to the Startup Crawl to learn more about different businesses in the metro and some exciting new opportunities including new business apps that can help people in their everyday lives. From mobile apps that tell you exactly when your bus will arrive, applications that help you custom design you own baby clothes, to larger companies such as computer coding, and software.</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> </p> Mon, 15 Sep 2014 11:00:47 +0000 VIDEO: Minnesota Apple Harvest http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-development/video-minnesota-apple-harvest http://mn2020.org/8774 <p> By Briana Johnson, {related_entries id="article_author_blogger"}Briana Johnson, Video Production Specialist </p> <p> Minnesota's apple harvest is underway and early word is that this year's crop is bountiful. There are <a href="http://www.mda.state.mn.us/food/minnesotagrown/minnesotaapples.aspx" target="_blank">116 apple orchards</a> across the state with more than a dozen varieties of the autumn favorite.</p> <p> Minnesota 2020 stopped by Aamodt's Apple Farm in Stillwater where they practice sustainable farming methods. Chris Aamodt, third generation owner of the popular orchard, says they use a minimal amount of spray to keep away bugs, promote an all natural process to replace chemicals during the growing process and use rain water to keep the apple trees hydrated. The farm has been around since 1948. It was started by Chris Aamodt's grandfather, a past student and professor at the University of Minnesota, who carefully picked the location of the orchard to avoid major storm activity that could damage a crop.</p> <p> And, yes, you'll find some some terrific University of Minnesota varieties including the newest star of the University of Minnesota apple breeding program, the SweeTango.</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> </p> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 11:39:59 +0000 College Debts Hold Back Economic Recovery; Need Assistance http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-development/college-debts-hold-back-economic-recovery-need-assistance http://mn2020.org/8764 <p> By Lee Egerstrom, Economic Development Fellow </p> <p> Rising college debts are holding back recovery in the housing markets while housing costs converge with college debts to also hold back recovery for the broader U.S. and Minnesota economies.</p> <p> This drag on economic performance isn&rsquo;t perfectly documented and analyzed yet. It is coming in bits and pieces. Yet an increasing body of financial house studies and analytical journalism finds linkages too strong to be ignored.</p> <p> Two sets of data should grab everyone&rsquo;s attention, said Darryl Dahlheimer, program director for Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota&rsquo;s LSS Financial Counseling Service, who actually has suggestions for ways to help students and the economy cope.</p> <p> The first data set is that college debts for recent graduates and current students have reached <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/08/11/how-student-debt-crushes-your-chances-of-buying-a-home/" target="_blank">$1.2 trillion</a>. The second, he said, was Federal Reserve Bank of New York&rsquo;s findings earlier this year that<a href="http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports/2014/06/24-student-loan-crisis-akers-chingos" target="_blank"> 31 percent of college loans</a> are now delinquent.</p> <p> &ldquo;This has to have an enormous impact on the overall economy,&rdquo; Dahlheimer said, and is a crisis calling out for public policy assistance.</p> <p> College students need debt management counseling when they take on college loans, similar to the way the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides mortgage and foreclosure-bankruptcy counseling, he said. &ldquo;Right now, all across the country, the only counseling college students get is how to get loans; nothing on how they will repay them.&rdquo;</p> <p> Such counseling could be provided for in the overhead cost of the student loans, and the 600 members of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) are in place to provide low-cost financial services, he added. LSS Financial Counseling Services, for instance, is a fully accredited nonprofit counseling service in Minnesota and Wisconsin. It is part of a pilot program, along with Urban Edge group in Boston, providing counseling through a unique Center for Excellence in Financial Counseling program at the University of Missouri.</p> <p> Ideally, Minnesota and national leaders should be looking at debt relief, or debt forgiveness programs similar to efforts underway to get doctors and medical personnel into rural and underserved communities, he added. That could be a third public policy response.&nbsp;</p> <p> Student debt problems are nationwide. Minnesota is no exception.</p> <p> The<a href="http://projectonstudentdebt.org/files/pub/classof2012.pdf" target="_blank"> Project on Student Debt</a> organzation found in its student of 2012 college graduates that Minnesota ranked fourth, after Delaware, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania, for graduates holding the highest amount of average college debt at $31,497. Minnesota was also ranked fourth highest among states with 70 percent of its class of 2012 graduating with debt.</p> <p> Overall, 71 percent of 2012 graduates from four-year colleges nationwide held student loans, according to the Institute for College Access &amp; Success research group, averaging $29,400&mdash;a 25 percent increase from the previous survey in 2008.</p> <p> How this spills over on the economy is obvious in the trenches where people work on community and economic development and on housing issues, said Jim Erchul, executive director of the Dayton&rsquo;s Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services on St. Paul&rsquo;s East Side.</p> <p> It is keeping recent college grads out of the home buying markets, he said. It has made them working poor, despite their educations; and they compete with low-income families for rental properties. And it delays any hopes for recent college grades to use their educations as a springboard to become entrepreneurs and launch new businesses.</p> <p> When Erchul started college, public universities in Minnesota were on a quarterly school calendar and tuition cost about $100 for the quarter. &ldquo;It was $1,000 a quarter when I went to graduate school, a thousand percent increase,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p> Much later, when another member of his household started graduate school, the cost had gone up to $10,000.</p> <p> Meanwhile, home values in most of Minnesota peaked in 2005-2006, with the subsequent collapse in the housing market nationwide triggering what has become known as the Great Recession. By 2013, the collapse meant $1 billion in home equity was wiped out in just the East Side of St. Paul where Erchul works.</p> <p> There has been an uptick in home values in the past 18 months, he said. But this reversion to mean in home pricing has only recovered about half the lost home equity, still leaving a high percentage of home mortgages underwater and pinching homeowners&rsquo; abilities to do repairs and pay off other household debt. Whether this was ever good financial planning or not, home equity has been the leverage for would be entrepreneurs to start businesses that, in turn, create jobs and spur economic activity within communities. For these reasons, the broader economy has shared reasons why it is important for college graduates to get on with their lives, buy homes and ultimately start new businesses.</p> <p> Sarah Strain, research and communications intern at Minnesota Housing Partnership, finds the financial world is taking notice. (<a href="http://mn2020hindsight.org/view/student-debt-evidence-of-impacts-piling-up">See accompanying blog.</a>) For instance, a Goldman Sacks study found that six to seven percent of grads have $50,000 in college debts, lowering their chances of home ownership; and that millennials paying 10 percent of monthly income on students loans have a 22 percent lower home ownership rate that their classmates.</p> <p> Strain&rsquo;s research finds the connections. Erchul sees it play out. And Dahlheimer knows it won&rsquo;t get better until student loans also buy college debt management counseling.</p> Wed, 10 Sep 2014 11:00:22 +0000 The Cooperative Response to Living on the Edge, and Frontier http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-development/the-cooperative-response-to-living-on-the-edge-and-frontier http://mn2020.org/8744 <p> By Lee Egerstrom, Economic Development Fellow </p> <p> Cooperative business leaders and community development activists will study the almost invisible but 230-year history of African American experiences with co-ops, including credit unions and mutual insurances, at a series of major events this month in the Twin Cities.</p> <p> This history continues to be relevant today because America&rsquo;s population is changing. People of color are still marginalized and face barriers to accessing capital and markets, said Jessica Gordon Nembhard, author of a new book that traces African American cooperative action back to 1780 in Rhode Island.</p> <p> &ldquo;This is as much an economics book as it is racial (history),&rdquo; she said of her <a href="http://www.psupress.org/books/titles/978-0-271-06216-7.html" target="_blank">Collective Courage</a>: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice.&rdquo; Even when new Minnesotans, or new Americans don&rsquo;t encounter racial discrimination, they still face obstacles to accessing capital and markets from lack of credit records or other barriers to doing business, she said.</p> <p> The book is an outgrowth of 15 years of research on African American business ownership and collective action to overcome business obstacles and counter political barriers and interferences from white supremists that continued into the 1980s.</p> <p> &ldquo;I was interested in community economic development, particularly for people of color and African American communities,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I started finding community actions that were family-friendly, that were supportive of each other. Of course, I found black involvement with the cooperative movement.&rdquo;</p> <p> Gordon Nembhard is associate professor of Community Justice and Social Economic Development at John Jay College, City University of New York (CUNY).</p> <p> Sarah Pike of Victoria, executive administrator of the Association of Cooperative Educators professional group, said Gordon Nembhard has uncovered &ldquo;a hidden American history that is important for all of us.&rdquo;</p> <p> It parallels the history of Minnesota and the westward expansion of America. On the Midwestern and Western frontier, distance from markets and lack of competitive local markets spurred farmers and small town people to form cooperatives and mutual aid societies.</p> <p> For black Americans and immigrant ethnic communities, barriers to access were not geographical but had the same stifling impact on economic development and prosperity growth.</p> <p> Tom Pierson, an independent cooperative consultant in the Twin Cities and president of the board for Northcountry Cooperative Development Fund in Minneapolis, did some of the research for Gordon Nembhard&rsquo;s huge undertaking. However, he said, most Minnesota ties to the African American co-op history weren&rsquo;t found in time for her first edition.</p> <p> &ldquo;There is an interesting local history but it&rsquo;ll have to wait for her second edition or be written by someone else,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p> Nonetheless, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights signaled this involvement in its &ldquo;<a href="http://mn.gov/mdhr/education/video/sesq2.html">Minnesota Sesquicentennial</a>&mdash;150 years of human rights in Minnesota&rdquo; listing of events. It noted the 1927 formation of the Credjafawn Social Club in the Twin Cities that opened a cooperative food store and credit union, offered college scholarships, and was a source of social activism that included work on integrating hotels.</p> <p> This reflects Gordon Nembhard&rsquo;s national history. About 100 years ago, black residents of various communities started credit unions to skirt Jim Crow laws and practices. North Carolina was especially active in these start-ups and had 55 such local co-op credit unions in the 1940s. There is still an <a href="http://www.aacuc.org" target="_blank">African-American Credit Union Coalition</a> continuing the legacy.</p> <p> This being America, not all collective actions led to success. Gordon Nembhard&rsquo;s book recalls instances when African-American worker-owned factories were ruined when white supremists got railroads and other vendors to deny supplies or services. In the segregated South, people who feared competition, among other reasons, often victimized black-owned farm and consumer co-ops.</p> <p> This continued up into the late 1970s and early 1980s&mdash;200 years after the African Methodist Church created the African Mutual Aid Society in Rhode Island as America&rsquo;s first known black-owned co-op. Meanwhile, the oldest continuing co-op is the Philadelphia Contributionship, a mutual fire insurance company started by Benjamin Franklin in 1752, which inspired thousands of similar mutual associations along racial, ethnic and regional relationships over time.</p> <p> The target of the latest, lingering opposition to black cooperation was the Federation of Southern Cooperatives (FSC). Two Alabama senators and a future senator unleashed General Accounting Office (GAO) and FBI investigations to harass the umbrella co-op group.</p> <p> This is noted because FSC, credit unions and the Collective Courage book are turning September into a back-to-school month for cooperators and community developers in Minnesota.</p> <p> The <a href="http://www.ncba.coop/index.php?option=com_civicrm&amp;task=civicrm/event/info&amp;Itemid=413&amp;reset=1&amp;id=10" target="_blank">National Cooperative Business Association</a> has a Sept. 11 session on &ldquo;Cooperatives and the Civil Rights Movement&rdquo; at NCBA&rsquo;s 2014 Annual Cooperatives Conference at the Depot Renaissance Hotel in Minneapolis, Sept. 9-11.</p> <p> At the end of the month, Gordon Nembhard will make radio interviews and three local appearances to discuss her book and research findings. She will visit with young cooperators Sept. 27 at the <a href="http://s.coop/cyc3cyc" target="_blank">Cooperative Youth Council</a>&rsquo;s three day &ldquo;Convergence&rdquo; in Minneapolis. Registration for the CYC3CyC is still open.</p> <p> The author will address faculty, students and the public at the University of Minnesota&rsquo;s <a href="http://s.coop/1uzqi" target="_blank">Humphrey School</a> on Sept. 29 during her visit.</p> <p> She then makes a major presentation on &ldquo;African American Cooperatives and the Struggle for Economic Justice&rdquo; at a community discussion for <a href="http://s.coop/1uzpv" target="_blank">CoMinnesota</a> cooperative advocacy group and co-op partners. That discussion and book signing is open to the public at the Capri Theater, 2027 W. Broadway in Minneapolis, but advance registration is recommended.</p> <p> <br /> &nbsp;</p> Wed, 03 Sep 2014 11:30:38 +0000 VIDEO: Remembering the Labor in Labor day http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-development/video-remembering-the-labor-in-labor-day http://mn2020.org/8728 <p> By Briana Johnson, {related_entries id="article_author_blogger"}Briana Johnson, Video Production Specialist </p> <p> Today, we honor and celebrate American workers who came before us as we continue to fight for those who will come after us. In 1884, the first Monday in September became&nbsp; the &quot;workingman's holiday.&quot;&nbsp; For many, this nationally recognized day dedicated to social and economic achievements of American workers signifies the end of summer and back to school.&nbsp; Minnesota 2020 set out to learn more about our Labor Day. Peter Rachleff, history professor at Macalester College provided a historical perspective and Jennifer Munt of AFSCME Council 5 talked with us about the importance of organized labor in our community today.&nbsp; As we celebrate with our families, let's remember the labor in Labor Day.</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> </p> Mon, 01 Sep 2014 18:00:40 +0000 Green Research Needed for Minnesota Bats and Bridges http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-development/green-research-needed-for-minnesota-bats-and-bridges http://mn2020.org/8725 <p> By Lee Egerstrom, Economic Development Fellow </p> <p> Minnesota is ripe for a bridge building industry that would revive lumber production in the state, put northern Minnesota mills and mill workers back in action, and spur &ldquo;green&rdquo; economic investment in the state, insists a leading green economic development specialist.</p> <p> Carol Coren, founder and principal with the Cornerstone Ventures group, said Minnesota is among 10 states with timber resources and forest industries that would greatly benefit from a &ldquo;green&rdquo; approach to repairing and replacing older bridges with wood expanses and structures.</p> <p> The concrete and steel industries have dominated road and bridge construction, partly as an outgrowth of the federal Interstate highway system. But this ignores the green, or renewable, wood industry that is supplying bridge construction in various parts of Europe and on other continents where deferred maintenance work is using American made and engineered technologies, she said.</p> <p> Citing just one example, Norway has committed 10 percent of its infrastructure budget to timber bridges designed to meet highway standards for the next 100 years. &ldquo;Concrete doesn&rsquo;t do any better than that,&rdquo; Coren said in a telephone interview.</p> <p> There is a potential obstacle in the way to our taking a green path to local, state or federal highway and bridge repairs, and it could be huge.</p> <p> &ldquo;We may be looking at a new &lsquo;spotted owl&rsquo; controversy that could threaten our forest industries,&rdquo; said Charles Blinn, a University of Minnesota scientist and Extension Service specialist in forest management, harvesting, economics and marketing.</p> <p> The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is scheduled to decide next year if it will add the northern long-eared bat to the national endangered species list. If it does, Blinn said, the forest industries summer harvest could be curtailed when bats are nesting and raising young in the forests.</p> <p> This raises questions about the viability of Minnesota lumber mills, paper mills and oriented strand board factories that would need to be supplied just from winter logging, he said.</p> <p> A similar battle in parts of the west and especially in northwest states has raged for more than a decade after different species of the spotted owl were placed on the endangered species list. It has pitted cattle organizations and loggers against conservationists and other environmental groups, and has at times pitted the Fish and Wildlife Service in a public policy management battle with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.</p> <p> How this might play out in Minnesota isn&rsquo;t easy to predict. Loggers, papermakers and forestland owners have a stake in the ongoing health and welfare of the bats as well. The insect-devouring bats help protect trees from diseases and pests.</p> <p> Adam Belz, writing in the <a href="http://www.startribune.com/local/271772021.html" target="_blank">Star Tribune</a>, gives good background on the westward movement of a fungus that is killing bats. In a recent article, he noted the fungus has moved steadily from its first discovery in Upstate New York in 2006 to two findings of the fungus in southeast and northeast Minnesota.</p> <p> Coren, whose green&mdash;&ldquo;triple bottom line&rdquo;&mdash;economic development consultancy has offices in both Southampton, Pa., and Portland, Ore., said something akin to a &ldquo;Manhattan Project&rdquo; is needed to further develop the human and science resources needed to bring timber bridge development back in vogue. We should add a major research commitment to bat health and wildlife management to the list of priority state and federal research commitments.</p> <p> <a href="/assets/uploads/article/2011_wood_bridge_concept_paper.pdf" target="_blank">A research paper</a> for prospective clients and interested parties by Coren notes the U.S. Forest Service launched studies in 1988, called the Timber Bridge Initiative, and the U.S. Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 funded studies that show timber bridges to be viable alternatives to concrete bridges. More than a million federal, state and local bridges have been identified as obsolete or decaying, she said.</p> <p> Those needs are expanding with time. Partly in response to the past decade&rsquo;s Great Recession and partly in response to political pressure that favored deferred maintenance over infrastructure investment, repair work off the Interstate freeway system has lagged.</p> <p> In a <a href="http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/fiscal-policy/new-data-show-big-drop-in-city-revenue-spending" target="_blank">July article</a> for Minnesota 2020, Jeff Van Wychen showed revenue for Minnesota cities fell by 9.2 percent between 2003 and 2012 in real, inflation-adjusted dollars while real city spending declined by 15.7 percent. On a per capita basis, he showed, real city revenues declined by 15.6 percent while real city expenditures declined by 21.7 percent.</p> <p> That is one way to look at deferred maintenance. Another is to look at the impacts the Great Recession, the housing collapse, and lagging public infrastructure spending has had on our wood industries.</p> <p> In its 2013 annual update of <a href="http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/forestry/um/index.html">Minnesota&rsquo;s Forest Resources</a>, released in July and accessible through this DNR site, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources noted net growth of species continued to outpace timber harvest levels in 2012, the last year for which data are available. This continues a problem for forest management for the industry and state continuing on from the housing crisis.</p> <p> Survey data showed the $16.1 billion Minnesota forest industry also generated $7 billion in added value, accounted for 8.2 percent of Minnesota&rsquo;s manufacturing shipments, and provided 62,370 jobs&mdash;making forest products the fifth largest manufacturing sector by employment.</p> <p> There are overwhelming human and natural resource reasons for federal and state research efforts on bats and bridges, where feasible. Going green is yet another strong reason for such public investment.</p> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 11:00:11 +0000 Voter ID is Bad Public Policy http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-development/voter-id-is-bad-public-policy http://mn2020.org/8691 <p> By Nathan Dahlen, Undergraduate Research Fellow </p> <p> This past week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court voted to uphold Governor Scott Walker&rsquo;s Voter ID law, which will require Wisconsinites to present a photo ID to vote. Governor Walker&rsquo;s effort is part of a recent push by conservative state governments across the country to pass restrictive voter laws under the pretext of preventing voter fraud.</p> <p> Interestingly, voter fraud is <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/07/09/7-papers-4-government-inquiries-2-news-investigations-and-1-court-ruling-proving-voter-fraud-is-mostly-a-myth/">mostly a myth</a>. In particular, photo ID laws can only prevent in-person voter fraud&mdash;where a voter pretends to be someone else &mdash;which is <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/08/06/a-comprehensive-investigation-of-voter-impersonation-finds-31-credible-incidents-out-of-one-billion-ballots-cast/">virtually non-existent</a>. No one in Minnesota has ever been prosecuted for it. Consider this&mdash;who would risk a year in jail and up to a $10,000 fine just to cast an extra vote? Justin Levitt, a Constitutional Law Professor at Loyola Law School, has spent years researching voter fraud, and just recently published a <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/08/06/a-comprehensive-investigation-of-voter-impersonation-finds-31-credible-incidents-out-of-one-billion-ballots-cast/" target="_blank">report</a> that documents 31 cases of <em>alleged</em> fraud that photo ID laws could have prevented, among over 1 billion votes cast in America since 2000.</p> <p> That&rsquo;s .000000031 percent.</p> <p> We are doing this wrong. Sound voting laws achieve three goals: minimal fraud, maximal participation, and equal access. By this standard, voter ID is bad public policy: it only infinitesimally reduces voter fraud, actually <a href="http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/15/measuring-the-effects-of-voter-identification-laws/" target="_blank">decreases</a> voter participation, and disproportionately reduces access for certain groups&mdash;the elderly, college students, African-Americans, Hispanics, and low-income people to name a few. These groups are less likely to have a photo ID, and more likely to face difficulties in acquiring one. And they can be quite <a href="http://www.brennancenter.org/publication/challenge-obtaining-voter-identification" target="_blank">difficult</a> to get. This is part of the reason several judges have ruled voter ID laws unconstitutional. ID laws also <a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/49106004/The-Costs-of-Voter-ID-Laws" target="_blank">cost</a> states millions of dollars to implement. In an era characterized by painful state budget cuts, the spending these laws require is shameful.</p> <p> In light of all this, it seems to many that the recent efforts to pass stricter voting laws by conservative state governments is actually a thinly veiled attempt to suppress voter participation among certain (growing) demographics that tend to vote democratic.</p> <p> There are better ways to reform voting policies. We should ditch voter ID efforts and instead pursue policies that increase voter participation while keeping fraud as rare as it is. It is not a zero-sum game either. Increased participation does not have to come at the expense of voter integrity.</p> <p> Higher turnout increases the quality of our democracy. Democratic governments are a reflection of the people who elect them. When more Americans vote, our government becomes more representative, less beholden to special interests and fervent partisans, and more accountable to the mainstream public&rsquo;s will.</p> <p> Minnesota is a leader in this regard. Thanks to sound voter laws and a vigorous tradition of civic engagement, we consistently have the <a href="http://www.projectvote.org/in-the-news/971-voter-turnout-the-6-states-that-rank-highest-and-why.html" target="_blank">highest</a> voter turnout rates in the country. While Governor Walker&rsquo;s Wisconsin is looking for ways to restrict voting access, we are looking for ways to expand it. This year, Minnesotans are allowed to vote by mail without needing an excuse. We can register online and track our ballots too.</p> <p> It often takes a closer, longer look to correctly assess public policies. We saw this play out in our state with the 2012 Voter ID amendment. Initial support for the amendment was at around 80 percent. Once the implications of the amendment became clear to us though, we <a href="http://www.startribune.com/politics/statelocal/177543781.html" target="_blank">rejected</a> it at the polls.</p> <p> Admittedly, it seems intuitive, if not logical, to require voters to confirm their identity with a photo ID. But closer examination reveals that voter ID is really just an unnecessary and expensive partial solution to a virtually non-existent problem that actually makes it more difficult to vote. Efforts to get rid of early voting and same-day registration are similarly misguided.</p> <p> In our state and across the country, instead of working to restrict voter access, we should be dreaming up ways to increase voter turnout. The quality of our democracy is at stake.<br /> &nbsp;</p> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 11:00:18 +0000 Finding New Keys to Land Ownership, Careers in Farming http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-development/finding-new-keys-to-land-ownership-careers-in-farming http://mn2020.org/8702 <p> By Lee Egerstrom, Economic Development Fellow </p> <p> At a creative farm south of St. Paul near the town of Coates, two things about fruit, vegetable and horticultural growing are immediately clear. You cannot plant and raise perennial crops when renting land on a year-to-year lease. You cannot even think about having an orchard unless you own the land.</p> <p> That is what makes the HAFA Farm in Dakota County so intriguing and why government agencies and nonprofit organizations are pitching in to help the <a href="http://www.hmongfarmers.com" target="_blank">Hmong American Farmers Association</a> get the farm launched and for HAFA members to buy the farm.</p> <p> &ldquo;I think we are working on a model that will transition and sustain new farmers in locally grown food production,&rdquo; said Pakou Hang, executive director of HAFA. &ldquo;For Hmong, this has been a 20 to 25 year struggle.&rdquo;</p> <p> It has. New Minnesotans, a large part of whom are Hmong immigrants and refugees, have been growing produce for metro area Farmers Markets since arriving in Minnesota. Each year, urban sprawl pushes produce farmers farther away from metro markets, adding to production expenses as farm family members commute from urban homes to fields and add distance between fields and markets.</p> <p> This is the second of an occasional series on what Minnesotans are doing to change the structure of the local food and agriculture industry and, in the process, open the way for a whole new generation of Minnesota farmers.</p> <p> John Flory, special projects director with <a href="http://www.ledc-mn.org/" target="_blank">Latino Economic Development Center</a> (LEDC) said all Minnesotans should be concerned about who will farm in the future. Census data show Minnesota farmers have a median age of 57 years, he said. As they approach retirement, their farm &ldquo;children&rdquo; are scattered to the wind in other careers. They may want to hold unto family farmland, Flory said. But they aren&rsquo;t returning to take over farm operations.</p> <p> Hmong farm families have the same experience, said Pakou Hang. The average Hmong farmer is 55 years of age. Hmong children, like other Minnesotans, have gone on to other careers and opportunities and only return to the hard work of locally grown produce production when &ldquo;farming is instilled in our bones.&rdquo;</p> <p> What HAFA is doing has brought government, education, nonprofit groups and industry together to smooth HAFA&rsquo;s path. This is economic development work to expand and grow a local food industry. It is also a systems development project to make local food production and marketing more efficient, viable and profitable.</p> <p> HAFA, formed in 2011, has 36 members. A benefactor who wants the Hmong to form a cooperative and purchase the land in eight years purchased the Vermillion Township farm. There are 16 Hmong farm families now renting five- and 10-acre plots on the farm; some of the land is enrolled in USDA&rsquo;s Conservation Reserve Program to protect the adjacent Vermillion River, and some of the acreage is used to grow cover crops and other experimental crops that are part of HAFA&rsquo;s educational programs.</p> <p> Janssen Hang, a brother of Pakou who is HAFA&rsquo;s senior organizer, said HAFA has remodeled an existing pole barn to include a cold storage facility to help farm members expand fresh vegetable marketing into December or January.</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p> </p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p> It has also constructed an outdoor washroom for members to clean their produce before going to farmers markets and an indoor washroom for their produce. The latter is required for licensing to serve institutional customers, Janssen Hang said., and to supply new customers, the Lunds and Byerly's stores.</p> <p> Institutional customers now include Minneapolis public schools, a few corporate dining establishments, and the Minneapolis regional office of Bon Appetit Management Co. The latter provides institutional food services for Carleton and St. Olaf colleges in Northfield plus cafeteria services at some of Minnesota&rsquo;s medical technology companies.</p> <p> The farm is getting intellectual support from Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) and its nearby Dakota County Technical College, said Vinai Vang, who heads HAFA&rsquo;s research and alternative markets program. Community organizations, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and various groups Vang describes as &ldquo;partner organizations&rdquo; are also directly or indirectly involved.</p> <p> Among them is the Latino community&rsquo;s LEDC from which Flory has been especially &ldquo;generous&rdquo; with time and talents, said Pakou Hang. Yolanda Cotterall, LEDC&rsquo;s Greater Minnesota Rural Program manager, serves on HAFA&rsquo;s board.</p> <p> &ldquo;We really are kindred spirits,&rdquo; Pakou Hang said of her Latino collaborators. &ldquo;We all face the same market challenges and access to capital problems. We all have language obstacles. And we all want futures in agriculture.&rdquo;</p> <p> All those reasons help explain an important, 26-month, $199,100 grant&nbsp; recently announced by the St. Paul-based <a href="http://www.bushfoundation.org/grantees/hmong-american-farmers-association" target="_blank">Bush Foundation</a>. It will support HAFA&rsquo;s development of training programs for Hmong farmers on farming practices while HAFA works to develop a land ownership cooperative to buy the Vermillion Township farm and help other new entrants into Minnesota agriculture gain access to land.</p> <p> The latter, said Pakou Hang, will need waivers from Minnesota&rsquo;s anti-corporate farming law from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. And it will need legal and accounting help to shape and structure a new cooperative that has no existing model in Minnesota.<br /> &nbsp;</p> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 11:00:27 +0000 VIDEO: Exploring a Hmong Land Cooperative http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-development/video-exploring-a-hmong-land-cooperative http://mn2020.org/8696 <p> By Briana Johnson, {related_entries id="article_author_blogger"}Briana Johnson, Video Production Specialist </p> <p> Minnesota is home to a large Hmong community of which many farm. One complication is that many do not have access to land that is affordable and near their homes. One group has committed to making a difference. The Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA) was awarded a Bush Foundation Community Innovation Grant which will allow the nonprofit organization to explore organizing a land cooperative.</p> <p> HAFA provides training and support to Hmong farmers and recently lauched the HAFA Farm&ndash;a 155 acre incubator and research farm located in Vermillion Township in Dakota County.&nbsp; Hmong farmers can get access to farmland near metropolitan areas, and large tracts of lands will be preserved for food production. The harvest of produce and flowers go to area farmers markets, Minneapolis Public Schools, Lunds and Byerly&rsquo;s and other locations.</p> <p> Minnesota 2020 set out to get a tour of the HAFA Farm.</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> </p> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 11:00:44 +0000 Lessons Not Learned, Forgotten from Watergate http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-development/lessons-not-learned-forgotten-from-watergate http://mn2020.org/8682 <p> By Lee Egerstrom, Economic Development Fellow </p> <p> At the urging of daughters and a few friends, I&rsquo;m looking back 40 years to the historic night of Aug. 8, 1974 in Washington. The world wondered that evening if American democracy would collapse, if there would be a military coup; and, in following years, we&rsquo;ve pondered if anything was learned from the entire Watergate experience.</p> <p> This is &ldquo;ancient&rdquo; history for half of you. The median age in America was 36.8 years in the 2010 Census and 37.7 years in Minnesota. What, then, is the relevance of Watergate and the Nixon presidency in these times?</p> <p> Recognizing this demographic disconnect, the short answer to the questions posed above would be: burn the evidence. Don&rsquo;t tape for posterity any conversations you don&rsquo;t want people to hear later. Beyond that, corrective measures taken after Watergate have mostly been forgotten, repealed or circumvented.</p> <p> Forty years ago, President Richard Nixon announced he was resigning from office and would leave the next day. Even before Facebook, Twitter and modern forms of social media that had no journalistic filtering and editing mechanisms, rumors were widespread something might happen, including a military intervention.</p> <p> As a just-in-case precaution, colleague Al Eisele and I were assigned to keep the Washington bureau open for the Ridder Publications newspapers until our Midwestern deadlines approached and someone gave us an &ldquo;all clear&rdquo; sign to close up shop.</p> <p> We walked past the White House where thousands of people gathered in Lafayette Square directly across the street to the north of the White House. It was a frightening scene. It wouldn&rsquo;t have taken much for some incident to occur. To our amazement, the evening passed without anyone attempting to &ldquo;storm the Bastille.&rdquo; No one was injured, and the president departed the next day.</p> <p> To cap an exhausting day, Eisele and I walked to Le Petit, a French bistro in the Georgetown neighborhood then famous for its signature filet mignon plus a daily vegetarian dish. My colleague began talking to acquaintances at a table next to us while I, illogically, sat studying the two-item menu.</p> <p> When reality set in&mdash;I knew what meal I came to get&mdash;I finally noticed Eisele was talking with Carl Bernstein and Nora Ephron. Even most readers under the median age in Minnesota should recognize those names.</p> <p> Ten years from now, Minnesota media will likely look at all the Minnesota ties to the Watergate scandal that included fundraising for the Watergate &ldquo;burglars&rdquo; on up to the important role two Minnesotans played on the Supreme Court&mdash;Chief Justice Warren Burger and Associate Justice Harry Blackmun.</p> <p> What people should remember now, however, was that the federal government worked like it was supposed to. While an orderly transition of power occurred in the executive branch, Congress, with bipartisan support, had an incredibly successful 93rd session (1973-1974) even as Watergate investigations and impeachment proceedings were playing out.</p> <p> Congress no longer works like it is supposed to. Josh Tauberer, in his <a href="https://www.govtrack.us/blog/2014/07/">GovTrack.us blog</a>, noted as of June 30&mdash;three-fourths of the way into the 113th Congress &mdash;only 125 bills were enacted by the dysfunctional Congress. That included only 73 bills in 2013.</p> <p> For comparison, 406 laws were enacted in the 93rd Congress of 1973-1974 that is mostly remembered as the Watergate era. It wasn&rsquo;t just housekeeping legislation back then. Major expansions of the Endangered Species Act were passed and signed into law by President Nixon. President Ford signed into law major trade negotiating authority (the Trade Act of 1974) that was shaped during the Nixon presidency after Asian exporting countries effectively ended television and electronic device manufacturing in the U.S. through predatory dumping.</p> <p> We had eight problem solvers representing Minnesota in the House of Representatives in the 93rd Congress, four from both major parties. We still have problem solvers representing us today along with at least one problem maker and a couple of problem enablers who mostly just go along for the ride.</p> <p> How has the nation changed since Watergate?</p> <p> The University of Houston takes a good look at that in its &ldquo;<a href="http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/era.cfm?eraID=19&amp;smtID=2">Restraining the Imperial Presidency</a>&rdquo; article on its Digital History site, concluding successes and failures for the public at large. &ldquo;Some of the post-Watergate reforms have not been as effective as reformers anticipated,&rdquo; it observes with understatement.</p> <p> <a href="http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/history/johnson/417carter.htm">Brooklyn College</a>, meanwhile, has a good review of legislation adopted in the wake of Watergate that continues to this day. But some of the campaign funding disclosure, ethics in government and intelligence gathering constraints have been weakened by amendments, by practice and by court decisions in the years since.</p> <p> A particularly good synopsis of highly functional Congresses&rsquo; role in cleaning up after Watergate is available on the <a href="http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/investigations/Watergate.htm">U.S. Senate&rsquo;s history site.</a> It, too, summarizes post-Watergate legislative actions from 1974 through 1978 and rightly concluded:</p> <p> &ldquo;The Senate Watergate investigation remains one of the most significant congressional inquiries in U.S. history. Over the course of this 16-month investigation committee members maintained bipartisan accord, garnered public support, and expanded congressional investigatory powers to produce lasting legislative reform.&rdquo;</p> <p> Alas, we are forgetting lessons learned from Watergate. It is far easier to remember what was included on Le Petit&rsquo;s little menu.</p> Wed, 13 Aug 2014 11:00:06 +0000 VIDEO: Feeding the Community Through Community Gardening http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-development/video-feeding-the-community-through-community-gardening http://mn2020.org/8677 <p> By Katie Lescarbeau, Policy Associate </p> <p> A community garden flourishes and a St. Paul food shelf enjoys its harvest. This summer, the <a href="http://sapcc.org/garden" target="_blank">St. Anthony Community Garden</a> and <a href="http://www.keystoneservices.org/" target="_blank">Keystone Community Services </a>food shelf have a wonderful partnership with more than 60 pounds in produce donations going to those who need it most. Members of the St. Paul neighborhood love the community building aspect the garden brings and Keystone Community Services clients benefit from all the fresh produce.</p> <p> The garden was started in 1981 by volunteers who rented land from the Burlington Railroad company until 1988 when they came together and worked with the St. Anthony community council to purchase the land through business donations, resident donations, and grants.</p> <p> Every Monday, the garden donates from the two plots that are dedicated to the food shelf in addition to individual plot donations. The food shelf has been very happy with the amount of donations they've seen this year. Christine Pulver, Director of Basic Needs at Keystone Community Services, says, &quot;It's been amazing to see our clients use more and more of that produce and learn about more varieties that they may not have used before.&quot;</p> <p> Minnesota 2020 had the opportunity to learn more about the partnership.</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> </p> Mon, 11 Aug 2014 11:33:26 +0000 Conservative Excuses Aside, Minnesota Still Outperforms Wisconsin http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-development/conservative-excuses-aside-minnesota-still-outperforms-wisconsin http://mn2020.org/8647 <p> By Jeff Van Wychen, Fellow and Director of Tax Policy & Analysis </p> <p> Since the 2010 election of progressive Governor Mark Dayton in Minnesota and conservative Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin, the Gopher State has outperformed the Badger State in terms of job and income growth. While acknowledging the reality of Wisconsin&rsquo;s subpar performance vis-&agrave;-vis Minnesota (the weight of evidence makes it difficult to deny), conservatives have sought to explain it away in a manner that leaves the viability of their anti-tax agenda intact. Their efforts thus far are unconvincing.</p> <p> The explanation <a href="http://www.looktruenorth.com/9-blogs/608-david-strom-minnesota-v-wisconsin-huh.html" target="_blank">they have come up with</a> is that Minnesota&rsquo;s superior performance vis-&agrave;-vis Wisconsin is not related to different tax and investment strategies between the two states, but to differences in the mix of industries. According to this line analysis, Minnesota&rsquo;s economy is concentrated more heavily in industries that have done well&mdash;or at least less badly&mdash;in recent years: specifically, finance and insurance, healthcare, and low-end retail. Meanwhile, Wisconsin&rsquo;s economy is more heavily concentrated in manufacturing, a sector that has fared poorly in recent years. These differences, according to conservatives, explain why Minnesota&rsquo;s economy has outperformed Wisconsin&rsquo;s.</p> <p> The veracity of the conservative explanation of Wisconsin&rsquo;s lackluster economic performance can be examined using annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) data compiled annually for each state by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). GDP represents the monetary value of all the finished goods and services produced within a jurisdiction's borders within a time period (usually measured on an annual basis). BEA estimates breakdown each state&rsquo;s GDP into specific industries, thereby allowing us to determine the industries that comprise each state&rsquo;s economy and rate of growth within each industry.</p> <p> As with income and job growth, Minnesota&rsquo;s real GDP growth (7.5 percent) has far surpassed Wisconsin&rsquo;s (4.5 percent) from 2010 to 2013 (the most current year for which state-specific BEA GDP information is available). If we focus exclusively on private sector GDP growth, Minnesota (8.7 percent) again outpaces Wisconsin (5.5 percent). Minnesota&rsquo;s GDP growth exceeds the national and Great Lakes* averages, while Wisconsin&rsquo;s falls short of both.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <a href="/assets/uploads/article/growth_real_gdp.png" style="font-size: 16.363636016845703px; line-height: 1;" target="_blank"><img alt="" src="/assets/uploads/article/growth_real_gdp.png" style="width: 600px; height: 368px;" /></a></p> <p> The conservative premise that Minnesota&rsquo;s economy is more heavily vested in the relatively prosperous industries of finance and insurance, healthcare, and low-cost retail is not borne out by BEA data. First off, the GDP of these industries have not grown significantly more rapidly than total GDP&mdash;and in some instances less rapidly&mdash;during the period in question. Secondly, these industries are no more heavily concentrated in Minnesota than in Wisconsin.&dagger; In short, the assertion that Minnesota &ldquo;has been more blessed [than Wisconsin] by industries that have enjoyed an economic bounce the past few years&rdquo; is not borne out by the facts.</p> <p> It is true that Wisconsin&rsquo;s economy is more heavily vested in manufacturing than Minnesota&rsquo;s; manufacturing comprises 19.5 percent of Wisconsin&rsquo;s GDP, a full third greater than in Minnesota (14.4 percent). However, the cause of Wisconsin&rsquo;s low rate of GDP growth relative to Minnesota is not the result of Wisconsin&rsquo;s heavier dependence on manufacturing, but rather the fact that manufacturing in Wisconsin has grown at a significantly lower rate than in Minnesota: 10.7 percent in Minnesota versus 4.0 percent in Wisconsin.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <a href="/assets/uploads/article/growth_manufacturing.png" style="font-size: 16.363636016845703px; line-height: 1;"><img alt="" src="/assets/uploads/article/growth_manufacturing.png" style="width: 600px; height: 319px;" /></a></p> <p> Nationally, growth in manufacturing from 2010 to 2013 was not significantly below the rate of total GDP growth, while manufacturing growth exceeded total GDP growth in Great Lakes states. The problem from the Wisconsin perspective is not that it is heavily dependent on manufacturing, but rather that the rate of manufacturing growth in America&rsquo;s Dairyland was less than half that of Minnesota and well below that over every other Great Lakes state.</p> <p> Furthermore, even if Wisconsin had a mix of industries identical to that of Minnesota, its rate of real GDP growth would only improve from 4.5 percent to 5.1 percent&mdash;still below the national and Great Lakes averages and nearly two and a half percent below Minnesota&rsquo;s growth rate. The explanation for Wisconsin&rsquo;s anemic economic growth lies not in its mix of industries, but in its low growth rate across multiple industries.</p> <p> This analysis does not prove that Minnesota&rsquo;s superior economic performance relative to Wisconsin is the result of the different policy courses that the two states have pursued in recent years. The prosperity that Minnesota enjoys today is in large part the result of <a href="http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/fiscal-policy/a-look-back-at-a-state-that-worked" target="_blank">smart public investments</a> in education, infrastructure, and other public assets made over the last half century for which no current leader can claim credit. However, this analysis does show that conservative attempts to explain away Wisconsin&rsquo;s inferior performance relative to Minnesota as the result of differences in the mix of industries within the two states does not pass empirical muster.</p> <p> Under progressive leadership, Minnesota has responsibly balanced the state budget, restored a portion of past funding cuts to <a href="http://www.parentsunited.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Newsletter-Spring-2013.pdf" target="_blank">K-12</a> and <a href="http://minnesotabudgetbites.org/2013/05/21/higher-education-omnibus-budget-bill-increases-financial-aid-freezes-tuition/#.Ulxds1PrSG4" target="_blank">higher education</a>, and made important new investments in <a href="http://www.mprnews.org/story/2013/05/22/politics/all-day-kindergarten-early-childhood-education-bill-signing" target="_blank">all-day kindergarten and early childhood education</a>, infrastructure, workforce development, and affordable housing and healthcare. All this was achieved while simultaneously <a href="http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/fiscal-policy/2014-tax-acts-increased-tax-fairness">increasing tax fairness</a>, <a href="http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/fiscal-policy/progressive-leadership-reduces-taxes-for-most-minnesotans">lowering taxes</a> for most Minnesotans, and <a href="http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/fiscal-policy/price-of-government-projected-to-hit-all-time-low">reducing the projected Price of Government</a> to an all-time low.</p> <p> In light of these accomplishments and Minnesota&rsquo;s superior track record in job, income, and GDP growth relative to Wisconsin, conservatives have yet to make any even remotely compelling case as to why we should let them &ldquo;<a href="http://mn2020hindsight.org/view/the-problem-with-going-all-scott-walker-on-minnesota">go all Scott Walker on Minnesota</a>,&rdquo; as one GOP gubernatorial candidate has suggested. After all, the failed should emulate the successful, not the other way around.</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p> <em>*&ldquo;Great Lakes states&rdquo; as used here refers to the states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.</em></p> <p> <em>&dagger;&ldquo;Low-cost retail&rdquo; is not a category reported by the BEA. However, total retail is a slightly larger share of total GDP in Wisconsin (5.6 percent) than in Minnesota (5.3 percent).</em></p> Mon, 11 Aug 2014 11:00:43 +0000 VIDEO: Farmers Marketing Cooperative http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-development/video-farmers-marketing-cooperative http://mn2020.org/8667 <p> By Briana Johnson, {related_entries id="article_author_blogger"}Briana Johnson, Video Production Specialist </p> <p> The <a href="http://www.ledc-mn.org/greaterminnesotaaccomplishments.php" target="_blank">Latino Economic Development Center</a> (LECD) is a nonprofit business development organization that offers support to Latino entrepreneurs who want to create their own business in the Twin Cities and throughout rural Minnesota. <a href="http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-development/local-food-marketing-within-a-stones-throw" target="_blank">LEDC&rsquo;s immigrant and refugee business training</a> programs and its agricultural development programs help ensure we are preparing the next generation of Minnesota farmers. Minnesota 2020 went behind-the-scenes to learn about this unique partnership between a community council and business development organization.</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> </p> Thu, 07 Aug 2014 12:09:57 +0000 Local Food Marketing within a ‘Stone’s Throw’ http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-development/local-food-marketing-within-a-stones-throw http://mn2020.org/8658 <p> By Lee Egerstrom, Economic Development Fellow </p> <p> <em>(First in an occasional series)</em></p> <p> Jose Garcia, a former Long Prairie meatpacker turned farmer, and Rodrigo Cala, of Lino Lakes who farms nearby in Wisconsin, are reaching new markets in the Twin Cities through their <a href="https://stonesthrowagcoop.com/" target="_blank">Stone&rsquo;s Throw Agricultural Cooperative</a> warehouse on St. Paul&rsquo;s East Side.</p> <p> Minnesota agricultural and food industry history is repeating itself. New food producers are combining production talents with food marketers by using Minnesota&rsquo;s cooperative business tools to overcome market barriers and obstacles. In the process, they are creating a new, locally owned food industry.</p> <p> When Garcia recently found co-op officials and visitors waiting for his trailer load of fresh produce from Aqua Gordo co-op in central Minnesota, he tossed each a yellow, round lemon cucumber that are new to Latinos and many Anglo-Minnesotans.</p> <p> Everyone ate the sweet cucumbers as if they were apples. Garcia laughed when asked if Latino farmers usually grow the cukes. &ldquo;We didn&rsquo;t know these,&rdquo; he said through an interpreter. &ldquo;They aren&rsquo;t part of our diet. But they sure are tasty.&rdquo;</p> <p> More than 20 Twin Cities area upscale restaurants agree. They buy fresh, locally grown produce through the Stone&rsquo;s Throw co-op while other restaurateurs turn to community-supported-agriculture (CSA) suppliers or make direct purchases from local producers at farmers markets to access local fruits and vegetables.</p> <p> </p> <p> Working with the <a href="http://www.ledc-mn.org/index.php" target="_blank">Latino Economic Development Center</a> (LEDC) of Minneapolis, Garcia and Cala are among new Minnesota farmers banding together in cooperatives and collaborative arrangements to rationalize the storing and distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables.</p> <p> This is no small matter. LEDC&rsquo;s special projects director John Flory said research shows some produce farmers throw away from 50 percent to as much as 75 percent of what they grow. That is inefficiency a marketing, warehouse and distribution co-op can help overcome, he said.</p> <p> Stone&rsquo;s Throw is reaching beyond restaurants to metro area hospitals in this, its second year of operation. It will start supplying Minneapolis public schools with fresh produce this fall.</p> <p> Subsequent articles in this occasional series will look at what Minnesota consumer-owned food cooperatives and Hmong-American farmers are doing to rationalize distribution, overcome waste and increase efficiencies.</p> <p> Given a choice, Minnesotans have always liked fresh, local produce. Gov. Mark Dayton said as much in proclaiming Aug. 3-7 &ldquo;Farmers Market Week&rdquo; in Minnesota. He noted that the state&rsquo;s Minnesota Grown Directory lists 175 farmers markets across the state while several others started this summer.</p> <p> The oldest in Minnesota and among the oldest in the nation, the St. Paul Farmers Market dates back to 1852&mdash;six years before statehood. What troubles economists, environmentalists and public policy officials are inefficiencies built into farmers markets and CSA programs with individual distribution and waste from over producing markets.</p> <p> Stone&rsquo;s Throw Agricultural Cooperative is part of new efforts to correct these marketing problems. It banded together with help from the LEDC, uses Minnesota&rsquo;s state cooperative business codes and traditions, received help from USDA Rural Development cooperative development programs, and is supported by St. Paul community organizations.</p> <p> The co-op started as an urban farming project a few years back when three Macalester College graduates and their friends began farming on vacant lots in south Minneapolis, said Robin Major, one of the students turned urban farmers who is the Stone&rsquo;s Throw manager. That venture expanded and now farms on five lots in Minneapolis and 10 in the Frogtown area of St. Paul.</p> <p> Issues of scale, scope and distribution efficiency remained. LEDC, meanwhile, was working with ethnic farmers in rural Minnesota and had cooperative development expertise in Yolanda Cotterall, the Greater Minnesota program director, and Flory, the special projects director who has more than 20 years experience with food co-ops and small business development.</p> <p> LEDC has USDA grants to work on co-op development projects for ethnic communities in Minnesota, including some of Stone&rsquo;s Throw&rsquo;s members. In addition to the urban farmers, the co-op consists of the Aqua Gordo co-op at Long Prairie, Cala and his family&rsquo;s Cala Farms partnership at Turtle Lake, Wis., and two other rural Minnesota farms or partnerships that include Latino ethnic partners.</p> <p> Two of the five members are worker co-ops; all are producer co-op members, and all make Stone&rsquo;s Throw a value-added co-op. In the cooperative jargon of Minnesota, Stone&rsquo;s Throw is a New Generation Cooperative (NGC) providing value-added services and a &ldquo;federated&rdquo; co-op. In structure, it is like U.S. agricultural co-op giants CHS Inc. and Land O&rsquo;Lakes&mdash;the Minnesota-based co-ops jointly owned by farmers directly and indirectly through farmer-owned local cooperatives.</p> <p> All the pieces fit. Teaming with the Dayton&rsquo;s Bluff Community Council on St. Paul&rsquo;s East Side, LEDC is helping the co-op buy a warehouse at 804 Margaret Street kitty-corner across East Seventh Street from the Mexican Consulate offices for Minnesota.</p> <p> It is being remodeled with cooler warehouse space for the co-op and offices and conference rooms for LEDC&rsquo;s immigrant and refugee business training programs and its agricultural development programs.</p> <p> LEDC&rsquo;s work with other groups, and especially the Asian and Hmong communities, will be discussed in a future article. What the St. Paul cooler and warehouse achieves, however, is an immediate way to expand marketing of co-op members&rsquo; fresh produce with less spoilage and waste, said co-op manager Major.</p> <p> <br /> &nbsp;</p> Wed, 06 Aug 2014 11:00:44 +0000 VIDEO: How Minnesota Raised the Minimum Wage http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-development/video-minnesota-raised-the-minimum-wage http://mn2020.org/8648 <p> By Briana Johnson, {related_entries id="article_author_blogger"}Briana Johnson, Video Production Specialist </p> <p> We've seen great progress this year. Governor Mark Dayton signed the state minimum wage increase into law which will now be reflected in the paychecks of thousands of hard-working Minnesotans. The fight for a wage increase, the first in 9 years, was long and hard and took a community working together. Minnesota 2020 joined the Raise the Wage Minnesota Coalition in 2013 and documented the journey.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> </p> Mon, 04 Aug 2014 11:03:05 +0000