The Twin Cities metro area has no shortage of local and regional governments — including, but not limited to, the Metropolitan Council, the Metropolitan Airports Commission, seven counties, 182 cities and townships, and some 40 school districts.
Sometimes, the region seems to have nearly as many business groups — including overlapping chambers of commerce, downtown councils, industry and advocacy groups.
Many of these entities — public and private — have differing or competing goals for attracting new business and jobs.
Now comes yet another business group — Greater MSP, or the Minneapolis-St. Paul Regional Economic Development Partnership — that hopes to speak loudly, proudly and with one voice for the region.
Tuesday night, with considerable fanfare, the group unveiled its economic development strategy for the broader, 13-county region and its plans to market the Twin Cities to businesses that might be looking for places to expand.
Its goal: to once again grow jobs at a faster rate than the national average and add 100,000 jobs over the next five years.
In announcing the group’s plans, Ecolab CEO Doug Baker said the Twin Cities region has many strengths, including a good educational system, a great research university, a well-trained workforce, more than 20 Fortune 500 companies and a prized quality of life.
“It’s time to get our region off the best-kept-secrets list,” he said.
Michael Langley, CEO of the new group, added, “For the first time, the Minneapolis-St. Paul region will have a one-stop shop for businesses hoping to retain their workers, grow and expand their operations, or for those looking to move to a new community.”
The group already has support and financial commitments from 20 major corporations in the Twin Cities area, as well as 24 local governments. The latter include Minneapolis, St. Paul and six of the seven metro counties (with Carver as the lone nonparticipant).
Greater MSP grew out of a study commissioned by the Itasca Project, a group of top executives of businesses, local governments and non-profit groups who were concerned about the region’s lagging job growth.
Working with a team of local business leaders and a consulting firm, Greater MSP developed a plan to target five industry sectors for job growth: health and life sciences, headquarters and business services, food and agribusinesses, innovation and technology, and financial and insurance services.
The group also employed a collaborative of public relations and marketing firms to create a brand identity and theme: “Greater MSP|Prosper.” [PDF]
“The Greater MSP region has such a tremendous wealth of assets, all of which allow businesses and people to prosper here,” said Mike Brown, vice president of marketing for the group.
While the “Prosper” theme seems less than inspired, the group showed off several sample advertisements that made the point effectively.
Officials of the group said they hope to spend $15 million over the next three years to deliver their message, and that they already have commitments of $2 million for the first year.
One issue that went unmentioned was the lack of any kind of regional fund to acquire and clear land, build infrastructure or provide incentives to help lure new business here.
Former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy came to town earlier this week to preach the gospel of urban reinvestment and revitalization, using his own city as an example of what can be accomplished.
Murphy told of investing hundreds of millions of dollars in public and private resources to help build new sports facilities and a convention center, revitalize the city’s cultural district, reclaim its riverfront and build an “innovation center” in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University.
Now a senior fellow at the Urban Land Institute, Murphy said, “A leader needs to take the risk to reach for the future.”
While the Twin Cities lacks a regional source of funding for similar efforts, Langley said Greater MSP intends to compare the economic development tools available in the Twin Cities area with those of other regions, and determine which are most effective.
Langley said his group will then look to “business organizations and chambers whose primary role is to advocate for effective business policies for the state and region. It’s through organizational collaboration such as this that the public and private sectors can work together effectively to help business and people prosper.”
Michael Langley and Susan Haigh, Metropolitan Council Chair, will be interviewed Oct. 24 by former Cityscape writer Steve Berg as part of the MinnPost Asks event series. For ticket information, go here.