Minnesota business leaders discuss challenges and opportunities in the state's economy
Here's what Minnesota business leaders had to say
The Minnesota Chamber released the 2022 Business Benchmarks report at the recent 2021 Economic Summit. Each year, the Minnesota Chamber releases this report to make sense of all of the rankings that are reported all of the time. Our goal through this report is to break down these rankings by economic category and bring to you the best, most reliable rankings. What factors go into determining Minnesota’s competitiveness in infrastructure or innovation?
And it's important to learn about these topics from those who know them best: Minnesota business leaders. At the 2021 Economic Summit, a panel of business leaders spoke to many of the opportunities and challenges facing Minnesota companies. Panelists included:
- Kathy Anderson, COO, Resoundant
- Eric Black, President and CEO, MDI
- Chris Landon, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Philips
Kathy Anderson, COO, Resoundant
Doug Loon: Tell us about your company.
Kathy Anderson: We're a small medical device company located in Rochester, Minnesota. We're actually a spin-out at Mayo Clinic started in about 2009 in-house at Mayo and then fully spun out in 2013. It's fun to be on the stage with Philips because they are one of the scanning equipment companies that uses our technology. We sell direct to OEM scanning equipment companies, and they distribute our technology to their hospitals and clinics that are customers throughout the world.
DL: How is your company handling remote or hybrid work?
KA: We've been very fortunate where even though we're a small company, there's about seven or eight of us in the office every day, we meet all those social distancing requirements. We have amazingly all stayed healthy. We like to come to work and we know that's a gift. We have had plenty of our younger workforce be at home for two weeks at a time because a child got exposed at school and there's no daycare. That's another really big thing: What's going on with education and the child care system in general has had a huge impact on us and having the ability to let people work from home, give them the technology and resources they need.
Kathy Anderson was profiled in the 2022 Business Benchmarks report on the cost of doing business in Minnesota.
Eric Black, President and CEO, MDI
Doug Loon: Tell us about your company.
Eric Black: I'm the President and CEO of MDI which is a social enterprise nonprofit. What that means is we have a nonprofit mission of giving inclusive employment opportunities for people with disabilities, but we generate 95% of our earnings through the work that we do and that's making plastic products. We make all the totes that the U.S. Postal Service uses to carry around your mail. We make products for Amazon, FedEx, Uline, a variety of different customers. We also do kitting and packaging. Here in the Twin Cities do a lot of work for 3M in that area. We have over 400 employees that work across four sites and roughly around about 50% of those employees are employees with disabilities.
DL: What's something Minnesota can improve upon?
EB: I think that as a state, some of the numbers showed that there's inequalities that exist. And when those inequalities exist, that means it's disproportionately impacting part of our future. Education's a huge part of that. When I think about families coming here and finding a home in Minnesota, they want to find that this is a place where they feel they can thrive just like anybody else. When it comes to people with disabilities, when it comes from people in the BIPOC community, there has to be kind of a quality put in place such that people can do that if not, they tend to leave or migrate to other places...You've got to have talent, that's available to really feel those workforces. Those inequalities are disproportionately impacting some communities over others. I think that's an area that as a Chamber, we can continue to push on the state to make sure that we bridge some of those gaps, such that these underserved populations are able and capable of filling these roles by the standards we've set.
Eric Black was profiled in the 2022 Business Benchmarks report on Minnesota's workforce challenges and opportunities.
Chris Landon, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Philips
Doug Loon: What makes Minnesota a unique or special place for your business to be successful?
Chris Landon: It all starts with people. We have amazing talent here in the state of Minnesota, great education that I think cultivates life science and engineering capabilities in this state. The education, the entrepreneurship, all of that exists in this state. And of course it attracts companies like mine, that are coming in to tap into that talent pool. If I had to sum it up in one thing, it would be the talent.
DL: How do we make sure that we have businesses like Philips coming to Minnesota to grow here? What do you think the key ingredients are to that?
CL: If there was a message I can leave here today is continue to invest on the innovation side and everything starts with innovation. We already have the basis of talent. We have the university and academic infrastructure. We've got great medical facilities like Mayo, University of Minnesota. There is so much raw material to work with in terms of innovation. If we can continue to support that, you're going to continue to get investment from outside the state to cultivate that. If we can take it to the next level and move that towards manufacturing. I think this is a message that applies to multiple industries going from the highly skilled talent, where the innovation occurs and translating that to support for the manufacturing you can actually, I think really supercharged the economy that way.