Southwestern Minnesota is the breadbasket of the state, producing 700 million bushels of corn, 140 million bushels of soybeans, 10 million turkeys and 5.5 million hogs annually. The region has nearly 26,000 farms generating more than $6.5 billion worth of commodities each year.
But farming is only part of the story in this remarkably diverse 27-county region.
Manufacturing accounts for one in five jobs in the area, with nearly 32,000 people working at such major employers as AGCO in Jackson, Taylor Corp. in Mankato and Schwan Food Co. in Marshall. Two of the largest soybean processing plants in the country (ADM and CHS) are located in Mankato, while Olivia – known as the “Corn Capital of the World” – has the highest concentration of seed research and processing companies anywhere.
The region is a major producer of renewable energy, including wind power and biomass. Buffalo Ridge, an area of rolling hills in the extreme southwestern corner of the state, is home to hundreds of wind turbines, thanks to some of the most sustained winds on the continent. Benson is the site of the first power plant in the United States to convert poultry litter into electrical energy, producing enough electricity to power 40,000 homes.
The area’s vast corn supply, with roughly 56 percent of the state’s acreage, makes it a natural setting for producing corn-based ethanol and isobutanol. Ethanol is used as a gasoline additive, while isobutanol is made into rubber, paints and other products.
Mankato-North Mankato – the region’s urban hub with a population of nearly 97,000 – was ranked 11th on the Forbes list of “Best Small Places for Careers and Business.” Rankings were based on the cost of doing business, projected job growth, educational opportunities and population.
While agriculture is the dominant industry in southwestern Minnesota, manufacturing and renewable energy also help define the region and are contributing to its growing economy. More details are available here.