Commentary: Let's get serious about high-tech jobs

It has been more than 17 years since Minnesota had a governor who was serious about creating good-paying jobs in Minnesota. And now, after almost two decades of inaction, people in every corner of our state are paying the price. Minnesota is losi...

It has been more than 17 years since Minnesota had a governor who was serious about creating good-paying jobs in Minnesota. And now, after almost two decades of inaction, people in every corner of our state are paying the price. Minnesota is losing jobs we've taken for granted for 20 years to economic hard times and cheaper labor in other parts of the world.

While we have been resting on our laurels, the jobs of tomorrow have been going elsewhere. In 1970, Minnesota was creating and attracting jobs on the cutting edge of industry. Today, those jobs are going to Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Utah. Other states are doing a better job adapting their economies and job creation programs to the modern business demands of the 21st century.

There's no question Minnesota is in a serious economic slump. Our job growth rate has fallen far behind the national average for the first time in three decades. While Minnesota creates 12,000 new jobs every year, most states are creating 30,000 or more. Simply put, we're los-ing a battle, forfeiting thous-ands of jobs to other states.

Over the course of Minnesota's long hibernation, states like Wisconsin, Tennessee, California, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Michigan, Virginia, Ohio and Texas have been actively recruiting entrepreneurial growth and investing billions of dollars in emerging high-tech industries.

All the while, our state's competitive edge has faded as essential state investments in entrepreneurial incentives and attraction of majority industries have been either misdirected by politicized gubernatorial gimmicks or simply non-existent. The entrepreneurial spirit that our governor talks about could well be used by his administration.


State Economist Tom Stinson is convinced that Minnesota is missing out on the emerging technologies industries that have brought such a boon to other states across the country. This is an area of the economy in which Minnesota was leading the nation just 30 years ago.

Before the personal computer era, Minnesota was a high-tech giant. We led the nation in the production and manufacturing of innovative, high-tech products. These industries created thousands of jobs for Minnesotans. But after decades of risk aversion, Minnesota's cutting-edge economy has grown dull, and those jobs have left our state for greener pastures.

If Minnesota wants to reclaim its rightful place as the Star of the North, we need to get serious about jobs and make strategic efforts to attract the high-potential industries of tomorrow that bring good-paying jobs and long-term economic growth for our children and grandchildren.

Making strategic investments in emerging technology industries is the course of action Minnesota must take to foster a 21st century economy and provide jobs well into the future. These industries are proven job creators in Minne-sota, with a tradition of produc-ing high return on investment.

These employers typically pay salaries more than $65,000 per year, which is $26,000 more than the national average. Clearly, these are good-paying jobs. But what's more, they spawn further job growth in the state.

Every primary bioscience job (research scientists, etc.) creates 5.7 additional jobs in the state. These jobs range from technicians who assist with research to truck drivers who deliver the final products.

As we look toward the future, the emerging technology industry can revitalize our rural and urban economies, and stimulate long-term economic growth. Technology jobs are not just done in university laboratories; they are an integral part of growing businesses from the plant floors to the dairy barns of Minnesota.

Minnesota must strategically invest in small and emerging science and technology businesses, especially in greater Minnesota, to grow our economy and to be competitive in a fast-paced, cutting-edge 21st century global marketplace. The state should invest in the following ways:


-- Provide incentives and support for researchers at public and private institutions to turn promising research into growing companies so the public sees the benefit of government-sponsored research.

-- Provide training and support to entrepreneurs and small business owners that would see the most significant job growth.

-- Provide incentives for venture capital investments in emerging companies in order to bring good ideas to the marketplace where workers and consumers will benefit.

-- Provide incentives for additional research and development in Minnesota from biofuels to software to medical breakthroughs.

The House Biosciences and Emerging Technologies Committee has been studying these issues throughout the interim. It is now working to craft strong legislation that will stimulate Minnesota's job base, and provide long-term econo-mic security by making essen-tial investments in new and emerging high-tech industries.

The partnership and support of Minnesotans everywhere will be critical in securing a successful future for our state.

Tim Mahoney, DFL-St. Paul, is a member of the Minnesota House and is chairman of the House Biosciences and Emerging Technologies Committee.

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