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Grow Minnesota! 2021 Annual Report

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Grow Minnesota!: A Year in Review


The Grow Minnesota! program was founded in 2003 on a simple premise: chambers of commerce and economic development organizations can advance Minnesota’s economy by proactively connecting businesses to resources to grow and expand in the state. This has remained Grow Minnesota!’s core mission for nearly twenty years. 

Yet, changes in technologies, demographics and economic conditions – not to mention a global health pandemic – have required continual adaption to meet the needs of a changing economy. 

2021 was a case-in-point. As Minnesota businesses navigated their second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Grow Minnesota! found new ways to gain economic insights from businesses, provide direct assistance, and broadly disseminate information on critical business resources. We recap some of these highlights in the sections below. 

We also invite you take part in this effort to retain and grow Minnesota businesses in 2022. How can you engage? 

Direct business assistance:

  • There are hundreds of tools and resources available to help Minnesota businesses across a range of issues, including business expansions, exporting, workforce, supply chain, sustainability, start-up support, small business consulting, financing, diversity and inclusion, business succession and transition, and more. But navigating such a multitude of resources can be a daunting task. 
  • Grow Minnesota! staff and local Grow Minnesota! partners can provide hands-on assistance to help you identify available resources that meet the specific needs and opportunities for your business. To get started, fill out our Grow Minnesota! in-take form or contact us directly at

Economic Insights:

  • Check out some of our 2021 insights in the sections below and look for more articles and special reports in 2022. 
  • Grow Minnesota! can provide customized economic data and reports upon request. Contact us at for more information. 

Local economic development support:

  • Grow Minnesota! partners receive the tools and support they need to lead business retention and expansion strategies in their local communities. Contact Vicki Stute, Vice President of Programs and Business Services, at to learn more. 




Quarterly economic snapshot – A review Minnesota’s economic recovery


Nearly two years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state’s economy remains in unusual territory. Some signs point to a robust economic recovery, while other signs point to remaining challenges and headwinds. 

Read more here, as we break down where Minnesota is at in its economic recovery. 


  • Minnesota GDP rose to $345.5 billion in the third quarter of 2021, exceeding pre-pandemic levels for the second consecutive quarter. 
  • State exports reached $6 billion in Q2 2021 and $5.7 billion in Q3 2021, rebounding from a low of $4.6 billion in Q2 2020.
  • New business applications – a leading indicator of new startup activity – surged by nearly 25% during the first 20 months of the pandemic. 
  • Unemployment fell to 3.1% in December 2021, a low-point not reached since 2019. 
  • Despite these positive trends, lack of available workers and supply chain challenges are slowing recovery. Total non-farm employment fell slightly in December to 2,887,400. Minnesota remains nearly 109,000 jobs below pre-pandemic employment levels. 
  • Minnesota’s labor force participation remained unchanged at 67.7% in December and fell by 2.5 percentage points over the course of the pandemic. 

Minnesota’s Economic Recovery at a Glance


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Grow Minnesota! - What we learned from businesses in 2021

Grow Minnesota! gained insights from 645 businesses last year, giving us a chance to assess how Minnesota companies are recovering and positioning themselves for growth in the year to come. Here are a few highlights from what we learned:


  • As of August 2021, 59% of 360 small and medium-sized businesses that we surveyed had passed pre-pandemic revenue levels. However, 16% of businesses reported that they were still a year or more away from full recovery. 
  • Nearly 70% of businesses report difficulty finding workers. This underscores the significant labor constraints that are challenging businesses and slowing job recovery in the state. 
  • As one business put it simply, “We have had to turn away work due to a lack of workers to meet increasing demand for our products.” 
  • General workforce availability (53%), taxes (47%) and availability of high skilled talent (43%) rounded out the three most common responses when businesses were asked what they think needs to improve for Minnesota to be a more competitive place to grow and expand.
  • Despite these challenges, 44% of businesses report they are planning new investments in equipment, facility renovations, or expansions, demonstrating confidence in their ability to grow in Minnesota in the years to come.
  • Confidence in future growth is also reflected in new business expansions announced last year. As the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) shows, at least 141 business expansions were publicly announced in 2021, just shy of the 155 expansion announcements in 2020. 



More Grow Minnesota! findings and business resources: 

We asked 360 small and medium-sized businesses how they are adopting digital technologies to innovate and grow. Here’s what we learned.
Over half of Minnesota employers (52,334 businesses) have owners over 55 years old. Yet, the vast majority of businesses don’t have formal succession plans in place. We review 5 key resources for Minnesota businesses to start planning for their future.
Minnesota’s economy is poised to change over the next decade. In this article, we highlight Minnesota’s long-term economic outlook and how business retention strategies can help capitalize on emerging growth opportunities.

Looking for ways to grow your business? We can help.

Contact Grow Minnesota! staff at today to get answers to your questions and/or to schedule your Grow Minnesota! visit. 

Interested in sponsoring a 2022 quarterly or annual report?

Contact the Chamber's Elizabeth Sherry to learn about exclusive sponsorship opportunities for the Grow Minnesota! 2021 quarterly and annual reports, or other Grow Minnesota! digital publications. Get your brand in front of businesses from around the state.