Minnesota has fewer startups than peer states, but those young companies last longer than newly formed companies in other states. When it comes to surviving longer than five years, Minnesota startups are second only to Massachusetts and ahead of California, North Carolina and Illinois.

Greater MSP, armed with government data, on Wednesday launched Forge North with nearly 100 community partners, said Greater MSP Chief Executive Peter Frosch.

The idea behind the program is to help Minnesota entrepreneurs to use services, money and talent so they stay and build their businesses in the state. Partners include Ecolab, business accelerators and universities.

The project, in development for two years, will center around a new "digital hub" website and other services that will connect more Twin Cities small businesses with existing support and resources that can be hard to find when working alone.

The hope is that with greater support, the number of innovative startups in Minnesota will grow substantially.

On the plus side, Greater MSP said the number of new Minnesota small and technology firms rose 38%.

In 2017, 9,336 companies formed in the state. Forge North will set specific number and regional goals in the next few months and reveal them in November, Frosch said.

"This is a community effort to match resources with need. I think it will help the environment here," said Doug Baker, chief executive of Ecolab, a $ 14.7 billion filtration and chemical firm that regularly provides venture funds and other aid for startup firms.

Baker said Ecolab has helped new companies participating in Target's Tech Stars program or the Metropolitan Economic Development Association's Minnesota Cup Business Challenge and also new firms financed via Cargill Ventures.

Startups often seek talent, investors or customers. But Baker said they also want to broaden their knowledge base. When they work with Ecolab, they want interaction with a few of Ecolab's 1,700 scientists or by exchanging information with one key division within the company.

On the flip side, a large company like Ecolab has the huge "scale" that many startups seek. Working together is "valuable," Baker said. Small companies tend to be highly innovative and have great ideas that can solve key problems.

"Our mission is to try to help the world solve large problems like hunger and food safety and water shortages. And to solve those you need innovation and scale," Baker said. "So we all need to be open to what are the best solutions to a problem."

Startups are valuable in the process to "see how people are thinking about different challenges."