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      Duluth News Tribune: Economic development forum in Duluth focuses on jobs

      Posted on October 10, 2011 at 9:44 AM

      The Duluth News Tribune highlighted Governor Dayton's regional economic development summit at the University of Minnesota – Duluth on Friday.

      Over 150 people attended the summit, which was aimed at gathering the best ideas on job creation from Minnesotans and to highlight Minnesota’s strong business climate and economic development opportunities. See below:

      Duluth News Tribune: Economic development forum in Duluth focuses on jobs

      More than 150 people participated in an economic development forum at the University of Minnesota Duluth on Friday. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton sat with 14 other people on a panel in Kirby Ballroom that included state legislators, economic developers and people running area businesses.

      The obvious topic was about how to create more jobs in what Dayton called a “different economic era.” He praised efforts in Duluth to revitalize its downtown as a sign that people working together “against the grain” can overcome economic obstacles.

      And there are plenty of hurdles when it comes to expanding the job base.

      UMD Chancellor Lynn Black said continuing cuts in the University of Minnesota system have led to more than 50 positions lost at the school since 2009. In that same time, UMD has had record enrollments — 500 more students today than in 2009. Black started a conversation about continuing to invest in education to keep a quality employee pool in the region.

      Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, said the state no longer is leading when it comes to the growth of median family incomes since 1960. He said past Minnesota practice was to keep funding solid for K-12 and higher education. “You can’t create jobs without good employees,” he said.

      Some of the challenges are specific to industries. Mike Schultz of Sappi Paper in Cloquet said better forest management in Minnesota would lead to his company using more wood from the state.

      He said half of the company’s wood comes from Wisconsin and Michigan, and transport is complicated by antiquated weight limits on the interstate highway system that force log trucks onto secondary roads.

      Karen Diver, chairwoman of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, said she is looking at diversifying tribal businesses. She said the band added 400 jobs in the past two years but wants to do more. They are looking at “green energy” projects, she said, because there are incentives to get into the industry. But incentives also need to reach the consumer to use green energy, she said.

      The governor heard a lot about incentives to spur jobs from audience members and business managers on the panel. Bill Ulland said his Ikonics Corp. couldn’t have built on the former Atlas Cement site between Gary and Morgan Park without some help from government incentives, namely the state JOBZ program that allows tax breaks so companies can invest in expansion. “It was made possible by the actions of state and local government,” Ulland said.

      Dayton later said he hears a lot about the state staying out of private business. “Some say there’s no role for government,” he said, but he found out through seven economic summits across the state that the “public sector does have a role.”

      Dayton will host a statewide jobs summit Oct. 25. In last year’s campaign for governor, Dayton and most other candidates concentrated on job-creation plans. But that discussion was slowed during this year’s legislative session as policymakers faced major financial questions.

      Dayton said after the session ended that he would return his focus to jobs, and he did that by launching the statewide tour. The all-day jobs summit later this month will take place at Crowne Plaza Riverfront Hotel in St. Paul. There is a charge to take part in the summit. See positivelyminnesota.com for details or call (651) 259-7114.