The CEO of the Twin Cities regional economic development agency said Monday that, a year into the organization's existence, "Greater MSP" is on track to reach its goal of helping to add 100,000 jobs over five years through business expansion and recruitment.
Michael Langley, in an interview before the organization's first annual meeting Monday evening at the Guthrie Theater, ticked off the names of several companies that have moved or expanded in the 13-county area that Greater MSP has influenced.
"We've visited 25 U.S. markets and six countries, sometimes multiple times," Langley said in an interview at Greater MSP's St. Paul office, which it leases from the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce. "This market also is going to grow organically. Polaris is a highlight with its expanded product-development facility in Wyoming [Minn.]" that is projected to add 300 workers over three years.
"A priority is to help grow one of our existing companies, such as Valspar, which is expanding, into our next Fortune 500 company," he said.
Langley planned to tell his board and other stakeholders Monday night that Greater MSP has had a role in 30 "completed deals" that will close by the end of December, coordinated with cities, chambers of commerce and other businesses that will stimulate more than 4,000 jobs and more than $440 million in capital.
Greater MSP is the outgrowth of an Itasca Group study that found that there was too little coordination among municipal and industry recruitment-and-retention efforts, marked also by bidding wars waged with tax dollars. Langley's outfit, with a budget of $4 million that it says is 80 percent funded with private dollars, employs 15 and is designed to partner and coordinate economic development as a one-stop marketing-and-assistance shop that spans counties and the globe.
Langley, 59, an extroverted former naval aviator, Westinghouse executive and Pittsburgh economic development czar, said that local governments and private recruiters increasingly understand that Greater MSP is designed to assist and enhance their efforts, not compete with them.
Health care was a concern
Rick Pauls, CEO of DiaMedica, a Canadian company developing new treatments for diabetes, said Greater MSP was helpful in wooing his firm, finding space in Minnetonka and introducing the company to a local health care insurance broker.
"We decided we needed to move to the U.S. and ... Greater MSP made the decision easier about moving to Minnesota," Paul said Monday. "We first talked to the people at Life Sciences Alley here. We are moving a company and families. Greater MSP helped with the transition, getting work permits ... offering to contact one of your U.S. senators, if needed.
"Health care insurance really scared us. In Canada, you get free health care insurance. Greater MSP was helpful in finding us an insurance broker who walked us through the process. They were more sophisticated than, say, a local chamber of commerce."
Gene Winstead, the mayor of Bloomington and a Greater MSP board member, said he's pleased with the progress made by Greater MSP.
"Marketing our area to the country and the world wasn't happening in a coordinated way before Greater MSP," Winstead said. "I think [Langley] is putting the pieces together and it's a start-up, for all practical purposes, and they've made solid progress in getting the word out. ... They're telling a balanced story, also working with local governments and businesses, about this being a place for business to expand or relocate. It's a large task. I think they've made adequate progress."
Neal St. Anthony • 612-673-7144