Driving County Roads

An on line journal sharing my views. The content reflects my background as a rural person employed in agriculture and as a retired elected official of local government.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Southern Minnesota Regional Competitiveness Project

Information gleaned at FarmFest Forum that featured Mark Grabenstott, Director of Center for Regional Competitiveness, University of Missouri.
Mark Drabenstott is originally from Hector, Mn. and has spent 25 years working for the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City as an economist. He has been with the Center for Regional Competitiveness which is part of the Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI) for the past several years. The following are points of interest he presented.

  1. We are all in a “Global Economic Olympics”.
  2. The athletes in these Olympics are like the region of Southern Minnesota, each region wants to "bring home the gold".
  3. Agriculture is a predominant industry in our region. However farmers – when economics are good – have a tendency to pay too much for land. And inflation is not a good thing for farmers.
  4. We need to think and act regionally. It is important to have regional partnerships with our neighboring counties or the next county over.
  5. Globalization has changed the rules of the races or contests. The rules have changed for products produced, services provided, and workers employed.
  6. Now, it takes more muscle to do things – so it is important to work together.
  7. In Minnesota, the top 10% of areas that attain the fastest economic growth are the ring of counties around the Metro area.
  8. We need to create “Eagen models” in rural Minnesota.
  9. It takes a critical mass to win the gold – to capture jobs and income which is created in our region. We are falling further and further behind.
  10. What does it take to win?
  11. Strategy-as a region we need to figure out what we do best. Examples: we have agriculture, but we also have the Mayo Clinic and the Hormel Institute. These two strengths can be merged to grow medicine. Part of the strategy is to prioritize the top three places to put our investments.
  12. Robust Regional Partnerships-build on what has worked. Renville County is ground zero in the cooperative movement. The entire region needs to work together – which is not a natural act. We need to have a Southern Minnesota Round Table.
  13. Focus on Innovation –how to produce better products
  14. Grow Entrepreneurs

Southern Minnesota Regional Competitiveness Project-a regional development strategy for 38 southern Minnesota counties

  1. The process will involve a number of partners – elected officials, business leaders, civic organizations, financial groups. Southeast and Southwest Initiative Funds will be involved.
  2. The effort will be to build and act on efforts already in place to think and act as one.
  3. The people in the 38 counties will determine the top areas in which to invest.
  4. The process will be on a dual tract. First of all there will be informed discussion about our economic future. The second tract will be a number crunching exercise to verify what we do best in regard to businesses, economy, and work force.
  5. There will be ten round table discussions held around the region. These will culminate with a Futures Summit in January of 2009.
  6. The Summit will come up with two economy menus for our region. One – a short term development menu and 5-10 year strategies. For instance- pharmaceutical therapies grown in crops are better than $6.00 corn. The extraction facilities to convert the raw product can result in a high paid work force to do this job. (Note: it costs 10 cents on a dollar to grow pharmaceuticals on a plant rather than in a factory. Pharmaceutical companies will look favorably on this endeavor.)
  7. The second involves the Farm Boom we are now experiencing. These land booms usually do not end well. At this time, our region can boast a net worth of Two Trillion dollars – if you add up every farmer’s balance sheet. What will farmers do with this wealth? Now, it is buried in the dirt. This net worth could be used to create venture capital to help our region win the Gold in this Global Race. Part of the strategy will be a plan for rural Minnesota to figure out how to invest this amazing windfall we are now experiencing.
  8. Possible examples of this planning. – A Branding Strategy for our region; building infrastructure; creating health care options; accessing investment capital; and building workforce. The region is losing population. We need to attract families from other states and from other countries.
  9. This planning will give rural Minnesota an opportunity to redefine our contract with the Metro Area.

EXAMPLE: an example of working together is that the city of Marshall EDA was approached by a neighboring smaller community for a loan. The loan was needed to attract a business to that small town. The people of Marshall were visionary enough to see that this business would help this town, but it would also help Marshall. They allowed the loan – with some criticism. Now both towns are winners.

Implementation of this Process–
Doing nothing is not an option. Whatever plans are made, must include measurable objectives and goals.Working together as a region means that we can grow as individual communities – but more important, we need to grow as a region. We must grow the pie. The best way for Hector to grow is to be a part of a larger pie that is growing. The same can be said for Nicollet or Truman. end.


At Friday, August 22, 2008 12:55:00 PM, Blogger Nathan Crane said...

Nice job in summarizing the forum!

At Thursday, February 26, 2009 12:29:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Judy - maybe you could post an update about the March 13th Futures Summit - see attachment I will send you separately, from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Fdtn.


and it's spelled Drabenstott.


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