WASHINGTON — The Twin Cities metro area is one of five finalists for the Army Futures Command, a prestigious research-and-development installation that will plan and facilitate production of technological innovations for the largest branch of the U.S. military.
Defense Department personnel scouted the Minneapolis-St. Paul region earlier this week, state and federal officials said.
“Representatives from the U.S. Army were in the region on June 11 and 12 to meet with regional, state and local government, private sector, university and economic development leaders,” said Commissioner Shawntera Hardy of Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). “We were eager to show them the best this region has to offer. The Army indicated they intend to make a final location decision by the end of June.”
That process could extend briefly, said Col. Patrick Seiber, the public-affairs officer for the futures command. But the Army has winnowed the list from 150 cities to what it hopes will be the country’s best mix of business, innovation and academia.
Seiber said the Army looked at data that show things such as patents issued and dollars spent on university research. Quality-of-life factors will also be considered, he said, as will logistics: How much do things cost? How easy is it to get around?
While it will bring fewer than 500 personnel, the Army Futures Command is one of the country’s most coveted development prizes because it brings with it the prospect of decades of partnerships in the private sector that could add hundreds of high-paying high-tech jobs wherever it locates. Virtually every major metropolitan area in the country wanted it.
Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum, who anchors a united effort by Minnesota’s federal delegation to woo the installation, welcomed the news that the Twin Cities was among the final five sites.
“As a finalist for the Army Futures Command, the Twin Cities’ business, innovation, and research ecosystem is clearly being recognized as one of the elite technology hubs in the country,” McCollum said in a statement to the Star Tribune. “As a defense appropriator, I would love to help provide the funding for this vital Army command and with the ongoing bipartisan support of the entire congressional delegation we will ensure that the Army has exactly what it needs to successfully fulfill its mission here in Minnesota.”
To do that, the Twin Cities must still distinguish itself from four other finalists — Boston, Philadelphia, Raleigh, N.C., and Austin, Texas.
The latter two areas are nationally renown high-tech hubs.
In Minnesota, government, business and academic leaders banded together to offer an integrated culture of innovation that the Army told communities it was looking for.
The regional development group Greater MSP coordinated the effort.
“The combination of great technology companies in diverse industries, the global fluency of our workforce and cultural landscape and the presence of great institutions of higher education, including world-class research and development, make a strong statement to Army leadership and will serve us well in their final decision process,” said Greater MSP CEO Michael Langley.