Many of Jonathan Anderstrom's tech industry friends work at businesses located in Minneapolis' buzzy North Loop neighborhood.
His company, Creed Interactive, is firmly planted in St. Paul's Lowertown — and he'd like to draw more like-minded entrepreneurs to the area.
Anderstrom is a member of St. Paul's new Innovation Cabinet, which is creating a plan to attract more technology and innovation-driven jobs to St. Paul. The 16 members of the group will come up with a strategy by July.
Anderstrom and other cabinet members are quick to add that this isn't about competing with the city across the river. They want to highlight St. Paul's assets, like its many colleges, and said the cities can complement each other.
Meanwhile, the Department of Employment and Economic Development is launching its own "#InnovateMN" effort to highlight creative businesses in the state and help them connect with state funding.
The timing of the two efforts — which were announced on the same day — was coincidental, said DEED Commissioner Shawntera Hardy, who is involved in both the state and city efforts. She and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith kept hearing stories of innovative job creation as they traveled the state, and Hardy said they decided: "We have to tell this story."
There were 141,934 people working in the technology industry in Minnesota in 2015, an increase of 5,475 over the year before, according to an analysis by the Computing Technology Industry Association.
The average technology worker's annual salary, $93,500, was 78 percent higher the average private sector worker in Minnesota, the analysis showed.
Technology companies often create well-paid jobs, but not that many of them, Anderstrom said.
The financial resources that St. Paul offers to help new businesses seem to focus on attracting companies that create a lot of lower-paying jobs, he said. He plans to suggest that the city have more flexibility in its business grant programs.
The cabinet has met twice. Members have talked about the need for creative workspaces and improving communication between companies, City Council Member Chris Tolbert said.
"We're not going to be Silicon Valley," he said, but the Innovation Cabinet will "make sure we keep our momentum going, and if nothing else, try to tell St. Paul stories."
Tolbert worked with Mayor Chris Coleman, who is running for governor, to create the cabinet. The effort fits with Coleman's goal, which he announced in August, to add 3,000 jobs in the city over the next three years.
St. Paul College President Rassoul Dastmozd, who is also a member of the cabinet, said having a variety of partners — including business owners, state and local government officials and educators — come together will ensure they look at the issue in a comprehensive way. He is interested in making sure the community and technical college's programming and services stay relevant for St. Paul businesses.
There will be a public "Conversations on Innovation" event with the cabinet members at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at a co-working space at 213 4th St. E.