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DEED commissioner: State is recovering

Published 10:21am Thursday, January 10, 2013

ALBERT LEA — Minnesota has made gains in recovering from the economic recession of recent years, but there is more work to be done, said the new commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Katie Clark Sieben was the featured speaker Wednesday at the annual Greater Jobs Inc. business luncheon in Albert Lea.

“Minnesota companies are still troubled by a lack of access to capital, our disparities in education and income continue to widen, and the skills gap is leaving jobs unfilled in businesses across the state,” Clark Sieben told the 60 people in attendance at a banquet room at Wedgewood Cove Golf Club.

On the bright side, the unemployment rate is 6 percent in Albert Lea and 4.5 in Austin, well below the national average of 7.7 and down from 8.5 in Albert Lea and 8 in Austin, where it peaked in 2009.

“We’ve now recovered over two-thirds of the jobs lost during the recession; Minnesota has added 55,000 jobs in the past year alone,” she said.

Clark Sieben said Minnesota constantly outperforms states with larger population and revenue.

“That’s because it is not all about the money,” she said.

Texas has a $200 million closing fund. Michigan has a $50 million closing fund. Minnesota, instead, offers natural resources, a skilled workforce, strong education system, innovative thinkers and places with a strong sense of community, Clark Sieben said.

At 19, Minnesota has an impressive number of Fortune 500 companies, she said. She pointed out Hormel Foods, 3M, Target, General Mills, Medtronic, United Health Care and Cargill.

“What is most impressive is that most of these companies are home-grown, started with an innovative idea and a lot of hard work,” Clark Sieben said.

However, there are still 168,000 Minnesotans looking for work. She said that is “enough people to fill Target Field more than four times.”

She said Minnesota needs to focus on three issues: working to attract, retain and grow business; investing in a workforce built for 21st century jobs; and increasing state exports and foreign direct investments.

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