R.T. Rybak: Government must lead, and stand aside

  • Article by: R.T. RYBAK
  • Updated: April 20, 2010 - 6:28 PM

Results in Minneapolis show public policy nourishing private sector jobs.

Last summer a tornado ripped through Minneapolis, damaging houses and uprooting trees. But immediately following the disaster, people came together, rebuilt and emerged strong.

In the same way, an economic tornado has ripped through Minnesota and our country. Jobs, homes and life savings have been lost.

Like rebuilding after a tornado, now is the time to come together to rebuild our economic future. It's time to put aside the long-standing partisan barricades crippling action and work together to rebuild the innovation economy that will create prosperity in every part of Minnesota.

As governor, I will wake up every day focused on job one: growing jobs.

I know we can turn our state around, because we've done it in Minneapolis. When I became mayor, unemployment was higher in the city than the suburbs; today Minneapolis is one of a handful of large cities with lower unemployment than in surrounding suburbs. We have closed the gap.

The successful job creation strategy we led in Minneapolis -- and the one we will lead for Minnesota -- has six key points.

1. Invest in people. We need robust job training and placement that provides companies with the skilled workforce they need to prosper. In Minneapolis, 7,200 hard-to-employ people have gotten good-paying jobs with this strategy. Another 3,600 people who lost their jobs have found new employment, at an average wage of $20 per hour. We can do this statewide -- if we connect workforce centers, union apprenticeship programs, business, nonprofit and community partners to put people back to work. We also need a Minnesota Promise, modeled on our Minneapolis Promise, where business and nonprofits come together to move 10,000 students into career centers, summer jobs and college.

2. Invest in infrastructure. The most powerful job growth role for government is to build the public infrastructure that helps everyone succeed. We need a bold transportation strategy, including road, transit, rail and aviation that brings vitality to all of Minnesota. Infrastructure also includes technology. Minneapolis became the first major American city with universal wireless; Minnesota should advance a statewide strategy for universal broadband that will help grow jobs on Main Streets statewide.

3. Invest in small business. Minneapolis has helped scores of small businesses add vitality and jobs to commercial streets. A new Minnesota Main Street strategy can return opportunity and jobs to Main Streets like the one in New Prague where my great-grandfather opened a general store over a century ago.

4. Invest in innovation. Minnesota is a brainpower state, and we need to invent our way back to prosperity. This means a strong partnership with the University of Minnesota, and more promising initiatives like the Energy Valley Partnership with Minnesota State Mankato. These strategies will position us for growth in clean energy, the new food economy, marketing and retailing, and our sweet spot: medical devices and biotechnology.

5. Reconnect Minnesota. Minnesota does better when the diverse parts of our state are connected to a regional strategy for economic competitiveness. We can be to wind power what the Middle East is to oil if we connect wind turbines at Buffalo Ridge to families in Richfield and Anoka. Small businesses can revitalize Main Streets, if we connect them to broadband and clean energy. A new generation of family farms can thrive, if we help develop locally owned grocery stores stocking locally based foods across Minnesota.

6. Know when to help and when to get out of the way. Over 50 percent of jobs are created by small business. I've spent much of my career in the private sector, and as the son and grandson of small-business owners I know something about what drives opportunity in the private sector. Government has an important role to play -- developing the workforce, investing in common ground, fostering small business and innovation. But government also needs to cut red tape to help business grow. In Minneapolis, we've reduced the time it takes to get business and construction permits from several weeks to a matter of days. We've shown that there is a time for government to lead and a time to get out of the way.

The time to act is long overdue. The time for change is now.

R.T. Rybak is mayor of Minneapolis and a DFL candidate for governor.

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