Minnesota trade

State exports to Asia, elsewhere rose in Q1

Minnesota farm, manufacturing and mining exports rose 5 percent to $4.8 billion during the first quarter of 2017, state officials said last week.

Demand for optics and medical instruments led all product categories with sales rising 2 percent to $883 million.

Minnesota’s trade output was the first quarterly increase since the fourth quarter of 2014, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

Still, Minnesota’s trade growth lagged behind the nation. Total U.S. exports rose 7 percent during the quarter.

State exports to Asia grew 9 percent to $1.6 billion during the first 13 weeks of the year, while exports to North America rose 2 percent to $1.6 billion with help from a bump in sales to Mexico and despite a slight decline in sales to Canada.

Canada, Minnesota’s largest trading partner, bought $953 million worth of Minnesota-made goods during the first quarter, a 4 percent decline from year ago.

Minnesota exports to Europe and to Central and South America were flat.

However, Minnesota export sales climbed 48 percent to $162 million in the Australia-Pacific region and 17 percent to $106 million in the Middle East. There was strong demand from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Dee Depass

St. Paul development

Catholic Charities project lands key funding

The state bonding bill signed by Gov. Mark Dayton last week should provide enough support for Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis to complete its $100 million, two-building Dorothy Day Place, a two-building housing and social service center that’s replacing an antiquated facility in downtown St. Paul.

Catholic Charities CEO Tim Marx said recently: “Dorothy Day Place … shows what can happen when Minnesotans from all sectors and political backgrounds come together around a shared goal. Together, we are achieving the true promise of this bold and transformational vision to prevent and end homelessness and to contribute to the vitality of the region.”

The private portion of the multiyear campaign already has raised $40 million. The Legislature approved $12 million in bonds for the Opportunity Center and up to $55 million in housing bonds through the Minnesota Housing authority to fund 170 housing units.

The St. Paul Opportunity Center and Dorothy Day Residence will include a one-stop location connecting clients to health, training, employment and housing services with community partners, as well as 170 permanent housing units that should be complete by 2019.

The first phase, Higher Ground St. Paul, opened in January and provides “dignified shelter and a pathway out of poverty” for 475 people.

Neal St. Anthony

Corporate support

Cargill invests in Minneapolis schools

The Cargill Foundation is making a $4 million, three-year commitment to Minneapolis Public Schools and AchieveMpls, the support organization of the school district that funds career centers in the high schools, mentoring and internships, and other programs not covered by state and local funding.

The latest grant brings to $16 million the total from Cargill, the single-largest supporter of AchieveMpls. Cargill has tried over the last decade to help the Minneapolis district increase graduation rates and produce more students ready for college and employment training. Most MPS students hail from low-income families, and there is an academic-achievement gap between whites and minorities, the majority of MPS students.

“Cargill’s support will help advance the district’s efforts to increase equitable access to [science, technology and math] programming and college and career readiness,” said Michelle Grogg, the Cargill Foundation executive director. “AchieveMpls and [MPS] are working hard to improve academic achievement for all students. Cargill knows that the success of every student shapes the future of our community.”

AchieveMpls last fiscal year raised $6.3 million from individuals, businesses and foundations.

The $4 million Cargill grant will be spent over the next three years on college-and-career readiness centers and related work with thousands of students; so-called “STEM” programs for science and math in the schools; and the expanding “AVID” initiative that seeks to close the academic achievement gap between students of color and white students, with tutoring and other academic-enrichment work.

“The Cargill Foundation’s support will help our district better meet students’ needs while providing enriching educational experiences that prepare them for both school and life,” said Superintendent Ed Graff, the fourth CEO to take the reins of the district in a decade.

Graff is wrestling with a budget deficit next year at a district that since the 1970s has shrunk from about 55,000 students to 35,000 students.

Neal St. Anthony