Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.


Seven Minnesota-based companies received a Governor's International Trade Award last week. But with exports, every Minnesotan is a winner: Trade creates jobs and a higher quality of life.

"The trade awards say that Minnesota is the place that builds and sells solutions that the rest of the world needs to face the problems that are on a global scale," Laurence Reszetar, the director of international business strategy at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), told an editorial writer.

That includes large and small companies, including one that started out small in Thief River Falls that now has a global footprint: DigiKey, which ships more than 25,000 packages of electronic components a day for delivery (mostly within 24-48 hours) to 180 countries. During a recent state trade mission, DigiKey delivery boxes were noticed at a company the delegation was visiting, creating the perfect example of how Minnesota firms "had a solution the world needed," Reszetar said.

"Trade begets trade, and having Minnesota success stories like DigiKey attract more Minnesota investment," Tim Carroll, the company's global head of marketing and e-commerce, told an editorial writer. "The international trade that the state of Minnesota has helped facilitate for us comes back into the state and into the community in the form of income taxes or corporate taxes or property and sales taxes, and I think that funds a lot of things that happen in Minnesota, that make Minnesota a great place to live."

And most profoundly, it creates jobs — lots of them in Thief River Falls, where more than 3,700 work at DigiKey, according to the company. That's in a county with a population of about 14,000. Statewide, according to DEED, about 118,000 jobs are supported by trade, as well as about 169,000 workers at Minnesota affiliates of foreign firms such as Rosenbauer, an Austrian-based company whose Wyoming, Minn., campus won the Governor's International Investment Award.

Other winners of the governor's awards were East View Companies in Minneapolis, Microbiologics in St. Cloud, Milk Specialties Global in Eden Prairie, Minpack in Pine City, and ThermaSolutions in White Bear Lake. Some companies that are now domestically based may become exporters at some point, Reszetar said. "On aggregate, what we see is the global marketplace has never been as accessible as it is today," he said. "The ability to move goods and services abroad has never been easier, to facilitate payment has never been easier, and the ability to permeate markets and share your solutions has become so much more cost effective."

That doesn't mean global trade doesn't face headwinds. Or, more literally and lethally, attacks on some Red Sea-faring vessels by Yemeni-based Houthi rebels, which may slow global trade. In addition to geopolitical challenges, there are domestic political ones, too, including a rare right-left coalition reflexively hostile to free-trade agreements that facilitate global trade (and international relations). And there are some statewide challenges, too, including Minnesota's tax and regulatory burden, which is not only among the highest in the country but particularly in comparison to neighboring states. That's something that lawmakers, however well-intentioned, should consider as they gather in St. Paul for the 2024 legislative session.

According to DEED data, the third quarter saw a 17% drop in state exports of agricultural, mining and manufactured products, mostly due to a steep decline in mineral fuel and oil exports to Canada. Still, the quarterly exports were valued at $6.1 billion, and the most current annual data from 2022 shows a 16% jump from the previous year to a record-setting $27 billion as Minnesota ranked 21st-highest in export value and 15th-highest in export growth among all states.

Minnesota manufacturers — including and especially the award-winning companies honored last week — as well as farmers, ranchers and others contributing to state exports are to be congratulated. But characteristically, most may not notice the acclaim while they're hard at work in order to keep up in an ever-dynamic globalized economy.