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Five fundamentals for Minnesota — in ESPN-ese

Paul MattessichPaul Mattessich

“How are your brackets?” “Did you hear what is going on in the Grapefruit League?” “What about that Vikings stadium?”

On the one hand, people like to talk about sports. On the other hand, people need to focus on some facts. Putting these two things together, here is some important data for the future of Minnesota – translated into ESPN-ese.

Craig HemstetterCraig Helmstetter

Toward that end, the stats of our great state reveal that it might be a good time for team Minnesota to re-focus on some fundamentals:

1. Become less reliant on our veteran players

Minnesota is getting older. Over the next 20 years, Minnesota will change from a state with five working-age adults for every retirement-aged person to a state with only three working-age adults (and primary taxpayers) for every retirement-aged person.

Baby boomers currently hold many of the leadership positions in our state, and we will need to “recruit” or “trade” to replace their skills as they leave our work force – and to support those folks in their golden years. How will we accomplish that?

2. Improve our conditioning

One-fourth of our team is obese. Our conditioning must improve, to keep us in the game. If it does not, we risk placing even more people on injured reserve; seven percent of the adults in our state already have diabetes, and that number is on the rise.

How do we stop obesity from gaining ground? Well, here’s a defense that the offense will have a hard time reading: Send more people to college. College-educated adults have markedly lower rates of both obesity and diabetes.

3. Strengthen our bench

About 25 percent of the children in our state are children of color. So, in the coming decades, at least 25 percent of our team – the future work force, future parents, future community leaders – will be people of color. The educational achievement gap between white students and students of color depletes our bench strength. That is, about 85 percent of white third-graders meet state reading standards, while only 60 percent of third-graders of color perform at that level.

Minnesota needs to “strengthen our bench” in order to make sure that all players on the team are good or even great. Some might try to make a different argument – for example that it is most important to recruit “star players” or focus narrowly on pushing for the excellence of the few, who will then bring everyone else’s game up a level. But that is an unproven strategy. Just ask Kevin Garnett or Adrian Peterson.

4. Work hard to regain our momentum

Sports fans (not to mention political-primary watchers) know that momentum is supreme. Once you have momentum, it tends to build on itself – and once you start to lose it, it is not easy to regain.

Unfortunately, Minnesota’s economy has lost some momentum in recent years. In inflation-controlled dollars the state’s median household income (the amount earned by all earners in a single household) has fallen by 10 percent from $62,000 in 2000 to $55,000 in 2010. Employment has dropped. Too many people pay too much of their income for housing. We still rank above most of the league (read: other states) on all of these stats, but our competitive edge has changed from “much better” than the league average to something closer to average.

5. Coordinate the game plan

Perhaps our toughest challenge: simultaneous execution at a high level on several different elements of the game. A turnover here, a missed lay-up there, and soon you are not even competing.

Become a sustaining member today

For example, in addition to fighting obesity and closing the K-12 achievement gap, we need to maintain the excellence of our post-secondary education system. Higher education can help ensure the state’s supply of higher level skills required for leadership and technical capacity in a 21st century economy, as well as the knowledge and creativity that supports innovation and entrepreneurship.

Coordinating an effective game plan also requires close attention to the clock and knowing the strengths and weaknesses of all the players on the field. Our own project, Minnesota Compass has a role to play, as do other sources of credible, unbiased information in our state.

Positioning our state for prosperity requires all of this and more. Minnesota can’t afford to count on a last second three pointer.

Paul Mattessich is the executive director of Wilder Research, where Craig Helmstetter is a senior research manager. This commentary is adapted from remarks made at the 2012 Minnesota Compass annual meeting, “Positioning ourselves for prosperity.”


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Comments (5)

And don't forget...

The highest payroll (state spending) doesn't guarantee championships.

also remember

But the lowest payroll guarantees a losing team.


Cute way to restate our problems, but it goes nowhere to suggest a game plan.

Appreciate the Long-Range, Systemic Thinking ....

.... done by authors Helmstetter and Mattessich in this piece. And it's gets style points as well ... !


Is there any problem sports can't solve?