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Made in Minnesota 2012: Building Cross-cultural Commerce

December 18, 2012 By Lee Egerstrom, Economic Development Fellow

Zack Avre, Chuck Green Civic Engagement Fellow, Macalester College contributed to this report


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With minority communities accounting for more than half of Minnesota’s population growth over the last decade, the state’s economic future rests in Building Cross-cultural Commerce.

Rapidly expanding populations of newcomers, and their Minnesota-born children, are responsible for nearly 40 percent of business start ups in some areas of the state, according to estimations by economic development officials in several cities. While most newcomers work on the agricultural, service, and retail sectors’ front lines, new Minnesotans also prosper as entrepreneurs, middle- and senior-level business executives, and higher-value manufacturing workers.

As specific populations grow, more opportunities also arise for immigrant entrepreneurs to open shops, restaurants, even medical facilities that cater specifically to their communities’ dietary, cultural, and health needs. As has been the case throughout Minnesota’s immigration history, much of this financial success spills over to Minnesota’s wider economy. Concordia University research estimates ethnic purchasing power at $12 billion on the low end.



These folks buy houses, groceries, cars and other consumer goods from long-established Minnesota businesses. Today’s Hispanics, Hmong, and East Africans follow a long line of hardworking newcomers dating back to the Scandinavians and Germans. Each group brought its traditions and unique skills to add value to Minnesota’s economy. We’re a stronger state because of their collective contributions.

Throughout the state, the number of Somali Minnesotans has risen to 50,000 from roughly 18,000 a decade ago, with Ethiopians now numbering 14,000, triple the 2000 census data. While mostly concentrated in Minneapolis and St. Paul, more of these newcomers are calling Dakota County and Greater Minnesota home, especially around Rochester and St. Cloud.

For at least a generation, one of the nation’s largest Hmong populations provided St. Paul with ample economic development opportunities. While many Minnesota Hmong still call St. Paul home, they join other Asian Minnesotans in an outward growth pattern to the suburbs and beyond.
Minnesota is now four percent Asian, on par with nationwide totals. Led by Hmong Minnesotans, Asians comprise nearly 12 percent of Ramsey County’s population and six percent of Hennepin County’s. However, from 2000 to 2010, the metro’s Scott, Wright, Washington and Anoka counties all experienced triple digit percentage jumps in their Asian populations, fueled by Hmong and Asian Indians.

Southwest Minnesota’s Redwood County is one of the state’s fastest growing rural Hmong communities. In the 2000 Census, no one identified as Hmong. Now, 323 Hmong and 507 Asian Minnesotans call that county home. These families have helped stabilize Walnut Gove’s Main Street.
Hispanics comprise at least 10 percent of the population four rural Minnesota counties—Nobles 22.5%, Watonwan 20.9, Kandiyohi 11.2%, and Mower 10.6%. Statewide Hispanics comprise nearly five percent of the population.

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  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    December 26, 2012 at 9:43 am

    Perhaps the first thing you should think about is ending the Racist harvesting of people of color to fill your Public Employee Union owned “Prison Industrial Complex”. With 2/3rds of all drug arrests in Minnesota being for the non lethal herb Cannabis and with up to 9 times as many people of color being persecuted, Minnesota’s Racism is showing, making building cross-culture commerce less not more likely.

  • TONY says:

    December 26, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Wow, Bill on another meaningless anti-union rant. While he is correct in his stats, blaming it on the prison guards has no merit. The strong racially targeted drug laws were the peoples reaction to the anti-drug articles written by the right wingers. Having spent 19 years on a citizen advisory board for Stillwater prison & having spent some time touring that same prison, I can tell you the guards earn any money they make. Our prisons are overcrowded now & these stupid laws will continue to make that worse, and the jobs of these overworked guards more dangerous. Try a day in their shoes Bill & see if you still place the blame w/them. As to the real subject, the influence of new cultures makes us all better. The same as it did when our grandparents came here years ago…

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    December 26, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    And a great day to you as well Tony. It is not the Union members sins I am after here, it is the Unions sins. While you are partially correct Tony, it was Nixon who started this most recent round of aggresion. It was brilliant in it’s inception because it drew in the new public employee Unions into the political Law and Order competition and they made it the cause above common sense. Yes I blame those and other Unions for perpetuating Racism by not speaking out against it and by profiting from it. Don’t be to surprised as it was public employees who benifieted from the old “Jim Crow” as well. The more things change the more they stay the same. It sounds like we agree again here on some fundamentals such as “stupid laws”, are you working with groups like LEAP to change them?

  • tony says:

    December 26, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    I spend my free time cleaning up waterways & working w/landowners to improve their ag. practices across the state. Without clean water everything else is moot. I leave drug laws to people w/more knowledge than myself. I still think that blaming prison guards for drug laws is weak in the extreme. Look to the companies that push for private prisons & the right wing idealogues that are the power behind our drug laws. They exercise a 1000% more influence than a lonely prison guard & his small potatoes union.  Remember the members of the union are the power in the union, they elect their boards democraticly…

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    December 26, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    The prison gaurds Union is only one benefactor here, it’s the peace officers unions, the AFSME and MAPP Unions at our court House’s, to include court workers, prosecutorial workers, local police Unions, probation officers, social workers, even Juvenile and treatment centers workers. Many groups here are bleeding the poor over this stupidity, and only a very small percentage standing up against “Institutional Racism” here in MN. As for the private prison thing, we have only one and it caters to mostly Federal Prisoners. Minnesota’s practice of harvesting up to 9 times as many people of color to support our public employees power base as well as supporting the drug gangs that have grown out of this is absurd ignorance. I see you too have a good cop out, excuse the pun.

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    December 27, 2012 at 10:41 am

    Maybe a commenter should only be allowed one off-topic comment per article. 

    This article is about immigrants having the opportunity to establish their own businesses or to get good jobs with existing companies and the benefits to our state’s economy from their doing so.

    In addition to immigrants from East Asia, I would add that giving Spanish-speaking immigrants from Latin America opportunities to emulate the industrious Asian families who have chosen Minnesota.
    And perhaps members of our tribal communities might prefer working for themselves.  Education and training should really be free.

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    December 27, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    You chose not to print my comment, which is fine.  I just get too fed up with the never-ending rants from Bill H.  Sorry.

  • ChristeenStone says:

    December 27, 2012 at 11:59 pm

    Reading through Hamm’s many comments I get the impression this really is all aboutTHe EVIL of Unions. I fail to see how that fits into Building Cross Cultural Culture.
    My ancestry goes back to a Great Great Grandmother who was daughter of an Indian Chief which the way I figure it makes me one-thirty second Cherokee Indian so my ancestors once owned the land. However I find my other great grand mother’s family came over from England and their family came
    in 1607 to Virgina and kept the English blood pure until her generation. So which of them has the best claim to America.
    Where am I going with this, trying to figure out how I can blame the Union for this. Makes as much sense as his ranting about Unions. I personally say more power to them and I hope the present government gets rid of those who would destroy Unions.

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    December 28, 2012 at 9:52 am

    What a rich history you and your family have, Christeen.  Obviously you have done much research—thanks for sharing the results.


  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    December 28, 2012 at 10:22 am

    My writing is clear enough for even you to understand Christeen, the only Unions I speak against are the White Collar Public Employee Unions who now think they own the Union movement from a minority position. As for cross culture efforts, this same group of elitists I describe above is also the benifactors and supporters of the “New Jim Crow” in Minnesota. It is not my working class promoting incarceration of people of color at up to 9 times the rate of whites. It is not my working class deriving power from this blatant Racism. If that isn’t negative cross culturalism, I don’t know what is.

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    December 28, 2012 at 10:48 am

    I’m going to write one response to Bill, but no response to his further postings on this topic. He can accept it or not.

    It is not public workers who have harmed unions or any workers - organized or not.
    It is a right-wing corporate movement that began under Reagan and, over several decades, has done much to propagandize the public into thinking unions are bad for workers and businesses.

    They have succeeded in doing great harm to private sector union membership and are now attacking public employees who choose to join unions—ordinary people like the prison guards you like to demonize but also including members of every department that serves the public BETTER because their workers are treated fairly. 

    Very highly paid “labor relations consultants” still travel the country helping companies get rid of their unions or prevent them from organizing their workers. 

    Google “anti-union movement in America” and read some of the articles.

    And read up on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) whose corporate members help right-wing state legislators all over the country write and pass anti-worker legislation and other laws that harm our democracy by attacking teachers and other public employees.


  • TONY says:

    December 28, 2012 at 11:25 am

    Folks, remember Bill thinks that a prison guard risking his life daily to make on average about $16/hr is a white collar elitist. The terrible inequity in black vs white inprisonment is shameful but has nothing to do with the subject at hand. I think if we ignore his teabagger rants against public unions he may stay on topic

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    December 28, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Sorry Bernice but my hatred of the Public Employee Union movement does not come from the dogma spewers of the GOP but rather from my own experiences within the Minnesota DFL. My vengence runs deep as I have revealed on these pages. You are again correct at the beginnings of the latest round of anti-Unionism from the GOP, but you again skipped the sad legacy of PATCO and the refusal of the public employee segment of the labor Union movement to even back their own. Labor experts and myself trace the current Unionism decline to that point in time and the gutless reaction of public employee Union across this country. You, public employee’s, as a group sold out the Union movement and now want to drape yourselves in it’s flag. Show me any of your efforts in the last 45 years that have in any way made things better for anyone who is not a public employee. You keep ignoring all the FACTS you don’t like. Same goes for you Tony, quit taking me out of context.

  • ChristeenStone says:

    December 28, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    In answer to Hamm’s reply to my comments, I have been around for over 92 years and experienced a lot of different life situation, talked to people with different opinions, took debate through my years in High school and was on the top team. I have never met a person who could confuse me as to what they think as he does. Dose he really understand what he is saying??
    I was raised in Texas where they practiced segregation at the worst. Where I got paid $10 per week for a 54 hour week. Mexican labor was readily available cheap. Texas is still a right to work state (for cheap). I was taught God created us all equal and we lived it. I came to Minnesota and was paid twice as much for a 42 hour week. Yes, I do value Unions very much!
    My greatest pleasure was to work with the Our Vote Our Future to defeat the Voter Restriction Amendment this year. We had a rainbow of color in our group
    and the enthuaism of the youth there was fantastic. Unions HELP PEOPLE get justice!

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    December 28, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    Christeen, I am not going to get in a knock down drag out with an esteemed elder. We are talking about 2 different worlds, first I have never advocated “Right to Work”, nor have I or will I supported any lies from the other side. I speek as someone who has been active at party grass roots level right here in MN for over 30 years. I have raised money for the DFL and have door knocked for it’s candidates. I was also there to witness the transformation of the DFL from an inclusive Party to the hateful exclusive animal it is become now. I still have family in the real Blue Collar labor Unions organized against Corporations, not against the people they serve as are Public Employee Unions. These Blue Collar Unions are the ones who bleed for the Union movement, these arrogant Public Employees never have, and in point of fact have always refused to.

  • ChristeenStone says:

    December 28, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    I am happy to know Hamm is not against All unions, at least he makes that clear. I have to be amused, the Union I belong to AFSCME is one of those he would demonize.
    I was an employee of Gillette Children’s Hospital for 16 years when it was State run before it became public. We did not have enough members to join, so they sort of grandfathered us in and we got the same benefits as they did, without paying dues.I just last year became an official member.

    Having only been an Activist for 25 years, he has been in the DFL longer than I have, but I haven’t met the people he describes in the party, I have found them to be very nice people who really share my concern about about making our country a better place to live. Glad I didn’t meet the people he describes.I have friends in both parties, but find the DFL shares my view most of the time.I do not share his views of Public Employees, they serve us and should be respected and they deserve living wages for their effort. I am not trying to pick a fight, and I grant Hamm his right to disagree with me. Enough said.