The council, which kept only $10,000 of Mayor Betsy Hodges’ budgeted $125,000 contribution, should acknowledge the extensive benefits of a strategic regional approach to recruiting businesses and workers and should restore the funding.
Greater MSP was formed in 2011 to unify Twin Cities-area development efforts. The organization estimates that projects it has been involved in have attracted or retained $3.2 billion worth of capital investment over a 16-county region, resulting in 25,000 jobs.
Whether or not these projects or jobs are in Minneapolis, the city benefits from a vital regional economy; from an expanded tax base that can fund public safety, social services and education, and from workers deciding to put down roots down in the area. This aspect of Greater MSP’s work is particularly important to Minneapolis, especially since the group launched an aggressive effort to convince sought-after knowledge workers — who have nearly unlimited options on where to prosper — to move to Minnesota. These workers tend to favor living in urban environments like Minneapolis even if they work in another community.
This region’s competition isn’t just South Dakota — it’s South Korea and anywhere else with dynamic economic opportunity, including the 11 U.S. “peer regions” identified by Greater MSP. Other regions have regional economic development groups that are championed by the elected officials from their largest cities. The loss of Minneapolis City Council support is a symbolic yet significant blow to Greater MSP and its corporate funders. (Star Tribune Media Co. is among them.) The snub comes amid several city initiatives that can give existing and potential employers the impression that Minneapolis is becoming an increasingly difficult, if not hostile, place to do business.
Communication must improve to get the process back on track. Hodges, who sits on Greater MSP’s board, needs to do a better job selling the group’s benefits to the City Council. Greater MSP’s leaders must do a better job explaining the group’s efforts to the council, too.
As part of its work with the city of Minneapolis, Greater MSP helped hone the successful pitch to land the 2018 Super Bowl, which will bring international attention to the city. The organization also has contributed to less flashy but important efforts such as the Center Cities Competitiveness Initiative, a multi-entity partnership trying to spur economic growth in north and northeast Minneapolis, as well as areas in St. Paul.
Cohesion is key to Minnesota surpassing neighboring states in economic development, employment and wage growth. But growing divides between the metro area and Greater Minnesota — as well as between suburbs and the central cities — threatens progress. The Twin Cities region can ill-afford these splits, especially when they do damage to the critical mission of retaining and attracting valuable corporate investment and a talent-rich workforce.