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Legislative retreat focuses on state economy

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: January 12, 2011 - 7:03 PM

Minnesota legislators took a break from the Capitol on Wednesday for a day-long retreat at the University of Minnesota, where a broad array of speakers spoke about improving the state's economic situation.

Dozens of lawmakers spent the day sitting in an auditorium at the Humphrey Institute, taking occasional breaks to eat and break into groups. Speakers included Ecolab CEO Doug Baker, former Minnesota CIO Gopal Khanna and state economist Tom Stinson, whose economic forecasts shape how the Legislature devises its budget.

No public money paid for the event. It was sponsored by the Blandin Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the Medtronic Foundation and the Minneapolis Foundation.

Stinson noted that Minnesota's economy has historically outpaced the United States, but the retirement of the Baby Boomers sets the stage for serious economic challenges ahead. The state made wise investments to accommodate the Baby Boom generation more than 50 years ago, he noted.

"How we deal with [their retirement] will determine how successful Minnesota [will be] in the next 40 or 50 years," Stinson said, adding that the number of Minnesotans aged 60-75 is expected to increase about 300,000 by 2020.

Moving forward, he said the state needs to retain and retrain current workers and ensure that there is accessible education for those entering the workforce.

Baker, who serves on the Itasca Project task force on job growth, stressed the need for a less costly business climate and a more "unified regional vision" to attract new companies to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

The session was capped off by a lecture from Doblin, Inc. president Larry Keeley, who spoke about methods for companies and governments to achieve innovation. Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch said Keeley's closing message reflected her vision for the session.

"'What are you willing to challenge or change today,' that's really what this session in the next two years is going to be all about," Koch said.

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