The news last week from 3M, one of Minnesota's oldest and most storied companies, could not have been more welcome.
Starting next summer, a new, state-of-the-art research facility will rise in the northwest corner of 3M's sprawling Maplewood campus. When completed in 2015, it will be the working home of 700 researchers and scientists -- people with the high-skill, high-salary positions every ambitious state and nation covets.
Better still was the word from 3M's new CEO Inge Thulin. He said that despite the far-flung operations of his very global corporation, its headquarters and research base are in this state for good.
That is indeed good for Minnesota. The company originally known as Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing has had an occasionally strained relationship with its home state in recent decades.
The late Gov. Rudy Perpich and former 3M boss Lewis Lehr publicly sparred in the mid-1980s, and 3M expanded research operations in Austin, Texas, soon thereafter. More recently, former CEO George Buckley, Thulin's predecessor, went public several times to criticize high corporate tax rates and a "tough climate for business" in Minnesota.
But 3M's decision to add another major research laboratory to its 50-building campus sends a more positive message about Minnesota. It affirms what Perpich preached -- that Minnesota can succeed in the global economy by building a reputation as a "brainpower state" and offering employers a highly educated and productive workforce and the research muscle of the University of Minnesota.
Fewer than 17,000 of 3M's 84,000 employees worldwide work in Minnesota today. But among them are many of the innovative company's best brainpower jobs, filled by people capable of perpetuating 3M's 110-year success story with new products and services.
The prospect of more such jobs in Maplewood in coming years should tell Minnesotans that their state's brainpower strategy is working and ought to be pursued with greater vigor.
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