There are many ways to measure the economic success of a state, from looking at the unemployment rate to tracking job creation and measuring the value of goods and services produced. Another indicator is the number of business expansions over the past year. If 2013 is any indication, then Minnesota’s economy is on a hot streak.
Minnesota knows water, and not just because it has 10,000 lakes.
Some of the leading water technology companies in the country have operations in Minnesota, including Ecolab, 3M, GE, Pentair and Aeration Industries. More than 15,500 people work in the Minnesota water sector, and the state ranks among the top 10 exporters of water and water technology in the United States, producing foreign sales of $729 million in 2012.
Minnesota exports came on strong late last year, growing at their fastest quarterly rate in more than two years.
Kathleen Motzenbecker, executive director of the Minnesota Trade Office, said this morning that state exports of manufactured, agricultural and mining products grew to $5.4 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013, a 6 percent increase from the same period a year earlier. U.S. export growth during that period was 4 percent.
Despite one of the coldest Januaries in recent memory, Minnesota employers continued to add jobs during the month.
DEED released figures this morning that showed the state gained 600 jobs in January – the sixth consecutive month of job growth in Minnesota. Total employment in the state is now over 2.8 million for the first time in history.
Water technology is big business in Minnesota, accounting for more than $729 million in foreign sales alone in 2012. Minnesota is among the top 10 exporters nationally of water and wastewater treatment technology, and the industry employs nearly 15,500 people in the state, including engineers, hydrologists and conservation scientists.
Manufacturers throughout the state are struggling to fill openings, according to the latest round of DEED’s Minnesota Hiring Difficulties Survey. Based on a survey of manufacturers last spring, two-thirds of the industry’s job openings in Minnesota were classified as hard to fill.
A proposal to raise the state’s minimum wage generated a lot of debate in the Minnesota Legislature last year and is expected to come up again in the next session. The minimum wage in Minnesota generally is $7.25 an hour, although it can be as low as $5.25 in certain cases. In the 2014 session, state lawmakers are expected to debate whether to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour, phased in over a three-year period.
Along with the housing industry, kitchen cabinet manufacturing in central Minnesota is simmering again. Jobs in the 13-county region jumped 27.4 percent from 2010 to 2012, which was more than five times as fast as the state as a whole, which gained 4.8 percent.
Today’s sold out Minnesota Construction Industry Conference in Bloomington is an opportunity for industry professionals to network and to learn more about new state programs, services, and regulations and rules.
The conference also offers a chance for the industry to take stock of where it’s been and where it’s headed.
Last August, Minnesota achieved a milestone when DEED announced the state had recovered all the jobs that were lost in the recession. But not all cities in the state have fared the same in the recovery, with some still struggling to bring job totals back to pre-recessionary levels.