Entrepreneurship and innovation aren’t new to Minnesota. They’re the source of our current economic success and the key to even greater future prosperity, equity and growth. We have the potential to be the problem-solving capital of the new economy and the GREATER MSP Partnership is working to make that vision reality.
Rapid changes in the global economy – demographic shifts, climate change and automation included – create an imperative for companies of every size to innovate and evolve or risk being left behind. In this environment, the risk isn’t trying something new, it’s staying the same.
What’s true for business is also true for Minneapolis-Saint Paul. Remarkably, we grew our “headquarters economy” from the ground up. Yet, as Ecolab’s CEO Doug Baker told the audience at GREATER MSP’s Annual Meeting last fall, “If big companies don’t innovate, they become small companies.”
In Minnesota, the only thing more natural to us than innovation is collaboration. In the last five years alone, the region has experienced an explosion of energy and focus around entrepreneurship and innovation. Some of our largest companies including Ecolab, Cargill, Target, and United Health Group launched national accelerator programs with Techstars. Others partnered with gener8tor or built in-house programs. Existing entrepreneurial support organizations such as MN Cup and Minnestar grew, while efforts like Bunker Labs, Grow North, and Lunar Startups opened their doors.
Forge North, a strategic initiative of the Partnership, was launched to build and drive the region’s innovation ecosystem. Through this working partnership of entrepreneurs, investors, startup accelerators, and many others, we are building on our authentic strengths rather than looking to emulate other regions’ models. We want an ecosystem that is purpose-driven, more inclusive of gender and race, and focused on unlocking new ideas at the intersection of our sectors of strength like health, food, and water.
To that end, Forge North partners from across the region have helped assemble over 500 existing local support resources for entrepreneurs into a single free tool, the Resource Compass. Now, founders can search the tool by industry, stage, and business to find the solutions they need to succeed at forgenorth.org. That’s smart, and it’s just the beginning.
The leaders and partners of Forge North are tackling problems in the present while also thinking big about the future. In November 2019, the Partnership announced a 2030 regional ambition to become the best place for people from every background to start and scale ventures that create wealth by solving global challenges. Hundreds of innovators in this community shaped that ambition and are now hard at work daily driving toward that horizon.
Bold ambitions call for big coalitions. GREATER MSP is a fast-growing partnership, and our vision is for the Minneapolis-Saint Paul region to lead the world in inclusive economic growth by welcoming everyone, empowering people, and igniting innovation. The launch of Forge North is a statement from the Partnership that innovation is now and will always be a core strategy in our approach to regional economic development. It is everyone’s work and we would love for your organization to be involved.