Lori Sturdevant, an editorial writer and columnist, has covered state government and politics for more than 30 years.

What businesses need from government

Posted by: Lori Sturdevant Updated: July 23, 2012 - 12:16 PM

Those who follow Minnesota higher ed matters were witness last week to a juxtaposition worth noting. Just as a business-led Itasca Project task force was calling for closer ties between this state's employers and educators, President Obama came under partisan fire for saying that business success is not a solo act. 

The Democratic president was pilloried for one line in a larger July 13 speech: “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

Out of context, that's jarring to entrepreneurial ears. The whole speech leaves a different impression. A line that's truer to Obama's point that day comes only two sentences later: "When we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together." 

That point matches the one the Itasca task force makes in its report. It argues that an exemplary higher education system  is essential to Minnesota's economic success. Without a ready supply of locally produced talent, this state's businesses won't thrive, it says. "Minnesota must have an education system capable of winning against global competiton." 

The leading Minnesota businesses represented on the Itasca task force appear to agree with Obama: Businesses can't educate their workforces on their own. But businesses can do much in concert with educators and government to strengthen public higher education, for their own sake's and society's too. Good for Itasca for underscoring that message, just as the nation's political discourse was taking a less salutary turn.

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