Gov. Mark Dayton, traveling with state and business officials on a trade mission in Europe, announced plans to open a new Minnesota Trade office in Germany.
The office will be in the Dusseldorf, Germany, and will join a similar trade office in Shanghai, China. Dayton said he plans to open two more offices around the world as part of a global competitiveness initiative aimed at drumming up markets for state products and investments in Minnesota.
This is a switch for the governor, who previously argued against such expenditures.
By teleconference from Berlin, Dayton his previous his experience with satellite offices "has not been terrific." He said it "took some real persuasion" by state trade officials, including Katie Clark Sieben, commissioner of the Department of Employment and Economic Development, who is leading the trade mission along with the governor.
Sieben said 16 states have more than five trade offices around the world, and Pennsylvania has 20. "It is a way Minnesota can compete in the global marketplace," she said.
She and Dayton said the state will search for the right leader of the Germany office. The Dusseldorf area in western Germany, near Cologne and Bonn, was selected because of its business similarities to Minnesota, they said.
"We share similar industries -- a focus on medical technology, food processing and renewable energy," Sieben said,
Dayton said many Minnesota-based firms have operations in the Dusseldorf area, and having its office in Dusseldorf, instead of Berlin, "sets Minnesota apart" from other states.
Dayton said the idea of foreign connections has changed since he served as economic development commissioner to Gov. Rudy Perpich in the 1980s. Then, Perpich's international travels were a source of controversy, but subsequent governors have made international missions part of their job.
"Obviously, the world has changed significantly, with globalization of the world economy," Dayton said.
Dayton's trade mission, including university and business leaders, has visited Stockholm, Sweden; Oslo, Norway; Dusseldorf, and now Berlin. They will return to Minnesota on Friday.
Dayton arrived in Berlin the same day as President Obama, which he said added to his travel time and ensured that his mission has been "below the radar screen." He said he will meet Thursday with a German company that is considering expanding in Minnesota.
"I'll defintely be encouraging that company's choice of the city," Dayton said, without identifying the company or the Minnesota city being considered.