Greater MSP -- formally known as the Minneapolis Saint Paul Regional Economic Development Partnership -- picked the Guthrie Theater for its first annual meeting Monday night. The setting was fitting. The organization's goals, and its results so far, are dramatic.
Formed to function as a regional marketing organization, Greater MSP has more than 140 regional investors and many partner organizations, and it has reached its three-year funding goal of $15 million.
The organization hopes to play a role in helping the region add 100,000 new jobs over five years at new and existing businesses. Current projections are that 22,000 jobs will have been added in 2012. The organization is projecting that 30 new or relocated firms will add 4,000 jobs and more than $440 million in capital investment by the end of the year.
In partnership with the Minnesota Trade Office, the Greater MSP/Minnesota China Center has opened in Shanghai. And a partnership has been formed in Osaka, Japan, with Life Science Alley/BioBusiness Alliance of Minnesota to spur more trade and investment. The outreach is not limited to East Asia: Efforts have been made in six countries, in 25 U.S. markets and at 12 industry-specific trade shows.
Of course, it's important to sell to Minnesotans, too, especially because business expansion and retention is clearly as crucial as business recruitment. So starting on Dec. 16, a new TV show hosted by former KSTP-TV anchor Cyndy Brucato, "Greater MSP Business," will run on Sunday mornings. Each program will have three segments that focus on the region's businesses and their impact on the economy and quality of life.
Despite the impressive momentum, major challenges lie ahead. This may be the Twin Cities, but for far too long the twins' sibling rivalry has made it difficult to sell the region. Greater MSP has built a better bridge between business communities on each side of the river, as well as with the suburbs. These efforts need to continue in order to maximize the region's potential.
Better bridges also need to be built between some of the organization's partners. Greater MSP is fundamentally a sales organization rather than an advocacy group. But it could have an even greater influence on business development by convincing its Partner Advisory Council -- a group of impressive individuals representing impressive institutions -- to provide a more consistent presence and message at the state Legislature.
One area that all stakeholders should be able to agree on is workforce development, which Greater MSP CEO Michael Langley says is job one for the region.
"The biggest thing by far -- the most important factor that we deal with in existing businesses, expanding businesses and recruiting businesses -- is the quality and quantity of workforce," Langley told the Star Tribune Editorial Board. "The population growth rate won't be high enough to fuel the continued growth of our great businesses here. So we can't afford to have any student in our system fall through the cracks. Education at every level -- early, secondary, postsecondary -- is absolutely critical to our leadership."
If we get this right, the future is bright. Particularly because we already have well-developed and well-recognized leadership with the three key sectors that Langley thinks will be most important in the next century -- food security, water security and health care.
Greater MSP has had a promising first year. But there is more work to be done by the business community, elected officials and the region's residents to in order to ensure a healthy future.