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Commonsense Reforms for Minnesota Veterans

Posted on November 12, 2013 at 8:00 AM
Categories: Veterans, Jobs, Public Safety, Military Servicemembers

Nearly 400,000 military veterans call Minnesota home. We are proud to have them. Our veterans have bravely answered the call to service. From the Battle of Gettysburg to Iraq and Afghanistan, Minnesotans have fought to protect our country and our freedoms. Many of Minnesota’s veterans don’t stop serving when they leave the military either.

In 2013, Governor Mark Dayton signed new legislation to help our veterans make the transition. The new reform makes it easier for active duty service members to transition into jobs on the police force. The bill allows military service members to take a police officer reciprocity exam while they are on active duty. Previously, service members were only allowed to take the reciprocity exam after they were honorably discharged. This change allows men and women in the Armed Forces to move into civilian service without a long delay in employment.


Statewide Health Improvement Program building a foundation of good health for all Minnesotans

Posted on November 04, 2013 at 2:00 PM

The Dayton administration believes in investing in healthy families

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than half of all Americans live with a preventable chronic disease, and many such diseases are related to obesity, poor nutrition, and physical exercise. A recent study found Minnesotans could save more than $4 billion during the next ten years, if our average Body Mass Index decreased by five percent. And right now, unhealthy lifestyles come with a price – costing Minnesotans nearly $6 billion in yearly medical costs.

Continuing the effort to improve the health of Minnesotans, and reduce health care costs through low-cost, preventive measures, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has awarded more than $21.2 million in Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) grants to counties and cities across Minnesota. The grants will be used by communities – in partnership with local businesses, schools, and local governments – to implement projects and programs that will promote exercise and physical activity, improve nutrition, and decrease tobacco use. 

“The Statewide Health Improvement Program helps win the fight against both chronic diseases and rising health care costs,” said Governor Mark Dayton. “By supporting preventive health measures and encouraging Minnesotans to make healthy choices, our state can realize significant health care savings and help people of all ages live healthier, more fulfilling lives.”

The new grant awards announced this week come after Governor Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature restored funding for the SHIP initiative during the 2013 Legislative Session. Funding for the program had been cut by nearly 70 percent, forcing the Health Department to offer the grants in only about half of the state. But the new state budget signed into law this spring increased SHIP funding by $20 million, restoring the opportunity for communities statewide to participate in the program. This additional funding allowed 25 more counties to receive SHIP funding.


Countdown to Learning: STARBASE Minnesota is helping create next generation of engineers

Posted on November 04, 2013 at 10:00 AM
Categories: Education

You can find more STARBASE Minnesota videos on their Youtube channel here.

We all know science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are incredibly important to Minnesota’s economy. Right now, Minnesota simply isn’t producing enough engineers and scientists to meet the demand. One Minnesota non-profit is working to change that.

STARBASE Minnesota is working to foster an interest in science, technology, engineering, and math in elementary school kids. Their innovative program exposes Minnesota students to exciting science experiments, model rocket launches, and high-tech engineering software. 

When children arrive at STARBASE’s Fort Snelling location for the weeklong program, staff greet them wearing blue flight suits ready to take them in to a hands on world of science based learning. The organization isn’t just sparking a brief interest in science either. A recent study by the Wilder Foundation found that kids that participate in the program are more likely to graduate from high school on time, attend college, and pursue a career in a STEM field.


Accelerating Growth at Minnesota Manufacturers

Posted on November 01, 2013 at 12:00 PM
Categories: Jobs, Economy

Harmony Enterprise Manufacturing
Photo Content: Flickr User recycleharmony; Smart Pack Trash Compactor

Floe International Inc., a dock and boatlift manufacturer in McGregor, MN, was hit hard by the recession. After watching revenue drop to half its typical amount, the company turned to Enterprise MN – a business consulting non-profit – for help. Floe used Enterprise MN’s Growth Acceleration Program (GAP) to provide funding for 20 of the company’s 70 employees to receive special training that transformed the entire company.

Now Floe’s revenue per employee has more than doubled. Sales in 2012 hit an all-time high, which allowed Floe to build a 40,000 square foot addition. Floe International President Don VanderMey believes this GAP-funded training will continue to inspire the company’s growth.

This legislative session, Governor Mark Dayton worked with legislators to promote job growth and invest in small businesses located in Minnesota. They provided $750,000 for the Growth Acceleration Program. This grant will allow Enterprise MN to continue helping Minnesota manufacturing companies grow.

Since it was created in 2008, the Growth Acceleration Program at Enterprise MN has helped over 245 Minnesota manufacturing companies invest in their organizations. GAP is a matching grant that enables small manufacturing companies to access business improvement services. GAP provides up to $1 of state money for every $3 a company invests. The initiative has helped these companies create or retain 1,700 jobs.


Made in Minnesota: Highlighting Minnesota Manufacturing

Posted on October 23, 2013 at 4:06 PM

Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben and Elmo at Vee Corp

Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben unveiled the new Made in Minnesota directory at Vee Corp, a Minnesota company where "Seasame Street Live" characters are made. 

This week, Governor Dayton issued a proclamation declaring this week “Minnesota Manufacturers Week” – highlighting the importance of an industry that employs one out of every nine workers in Minnesota. To feature products and supplies manufactured in the state, DEED unveiled a new online Made in Minnesota Directory to encourage Minnesota businesses to buy products and supplies from each other, rather than from out-of-state or foreign companies. The tool contains details about nearly 600 manufactures statewide.

Businesses can use the database to find Minnesota manufacturers who make everything from food products to textiles, fabricated metals, machinery, and computers and electronics. The directory, which is available online at, is arranged so that users can search by product, company name or county.

About 300,000 people work in manufacturing in Minnesota, primarily in such areas as computer and electronic products, foods, fabricated metal products and machinery. Manufacturing contributes $40 billion to the state economy – 15 percent of Minnesota’s gross domestic product – and the industry accounted for $18.6 billion in state exports last year.

Salaries in the sector are much higher than most other industries in the state because many manufacturing jobs require high-tech skills to operate advanced technology and computer-controlled equipment. The average manufacturing position in the state paid $58,760 last year, about $10,000 more than the typical job in Minnesota.

Throughout the week, tours of manufacturing facilities around the state and other activities are planned in recognition of Minnesota Manufacturers Week. Besides plant tours, other events during the week include speakers, educational activities and the unveiling of the new Made in Minnesota Directory of manufacturers and suppliers.


Helping Part-Time College Students Succeed

Posted on October 21, 2013 at 8:00 AM
Categories: Education

Photo Credit: Flickr user Pete Sieger, Normandale Community College

Photo Content: Flickr User Pete Sieger; Normandale Community College 

We all know that education is critical to a bright future. In fact, by 2018 an estimated 70 percent of Minnesota jobs will require some education beyond high school. And right now, only 40 percent of Minnesotans hold postsecondary degrees. Closing this higher education gap is critical to helping all Minnesotans get great jobs in the future and growing our economy.

However, the rising cost of higher education is putting college out of reach for many.  Right now, Minnesota had the third highest student debt rate in the United States with the average graduate leaving school with $29,800 in debt. This year, Governor Mark Dayton and the DFL legislature improved Minnesota’s State Grant Program to help all of our students get an affordable education.




Why Investing in Higher Education Matters

Posted on October 19, 2013 at 1:28 PM

Governor Dayton
Today, Governor Dayton spoke to a group of 300 college students from across Minnesota will hear from Governor Mark Dayton about issues affecting higher education, including the Governor’s efforts to make college more affordable for Minnesotans. 

RahelDuring the past decade, tuition and fees have increased by three times the rate of inflation. Meanwhile, Minnesota students are taking out loans at one of the highest rates in the nation, with the average graduate leaving school with $29,800 in student debt. This trend isn’t sustainable or fair to Minnesotans seeking a better future.

One student struggling with the increasing cost of school is Rahel Theodros. A full-time college student from Columbia Heights studying business marketing education at the University of Minnesota. In addition to her studies, Rahel works 15-20 hours per week as a waitress and is heavily involved in volunteering and numerous campus activities. 

Rahel has a younger sister and an older brother who are also attending college right now. She is one of nearly 100,000 Minnesota students who rely on the Minnesota State Grant program to pay for college. 

In addition to the State Grant funding she receives, Rahel has also had to take out $5,000 to $6,000 in student loans each year. She anticipates that she will graduate with more than $20,000 in student debt. “Without the Minnesota State Grant Program,” she said, “I would not have been able to afford tuition.”

Today, Governor Mark Dayton was at the Minnesota State College Student Association Leadership Summit in Bloomington to talk about new efforts to help students like Rahel. This year, Governor Dayton and the DFL Legislature invested $250 million in higher education – including $46 million for direct financial aid to students. The new financial aid resources are helping more than 100,000 Minnesota students.

The Governor’s new budget also freezes tuition at the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. The freeze will help keep college costs under control and ensure that all Minnesotans can access an affordable education.


Freezing Tuition at Public Colleges and Universities

Posted on October 17, 2013 at 11:48 AM
Categories: Education

Governor Dayton speaks with college students
Governor Mark Dayton speaks with students from Minnesota State University, Mankato.

After nearly a decade of cuts to higher education funding, tuition skyrocketed at the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU). From 2001 to 2012, tuition at the U of M more than doubled from $5,002 to $11,094 for state residents! Ever increasing tuition costs and increasing debt are a tax on the future of Minnesota students and a drag on our state’s economy.

Access to a high-quality education should be available to all Minnesotans and not just students who can afford to take on costly loans. This year, Governor Mark Dayton and the DFL legislature froze tuition at the University of Minnesota and the MnSCU systems schools to halt the trend of double-digit cost hikes.

Minnesotans agree that everyone who works hard in school deserves access to higher education. This tuition freeze begins to restore balance in Minnesota’s educational system. It also will help ensure our students for the future economy.


College and Career Readiness

Posted on October 17, 2013 at 8:00 AM
Categories: Education, Jobs, Economy

Photo Content: Flickr User J. Stephen Conn
Photo Content: Flickr User J. Stephen Conn; Minnesota State University, Moorhead

Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce found that 70 percent of all jobs in Minnesota will require at least some postsecondary education by 2018. To meet those growing demand for an educated workforce, Governor Mark Dayton and the DFL Legislature enacted real reforms to ensure Minnesota kids are prepared for the good jobs of tomorrow.

To build a world-class workforce, they invested in initiatives proven to make a big impact like early-childhood education and all-day, every-day kindergarten. Investments like these will help close Minnesota’s achievement and improve our economy for years to come.

Critically, the Governor and legislature also worked to reform testing. Minnesota will replacing the GRAD test with a new test that is similar to the ACT, which will do a better job of indicating whether our students are prepared for college or careers.


Fresh, locally grown foods make difference for Minnesota students

Posted on October 15, 2013 at 10:11 AM

A local farmer picks Brussel sprouts from a school garden at Hopkins West Junior High.

A local farmer picks collard greens from a school garden at Hopkins West Junior High.

This Op/Ed originally appeared in the St. Cloud Times on October 12, 2013. By Commissioners Dave Frederickson, Department of Agriculture; Brenda Cassellius, Department of Education; Edward Ehlinger, Department of Health.

Remember those thick slabs of greasy pizza from the school cafeterias of your childhood? How about the frozen processed-chicken nuggets or the popular “shake-and-French-fry” line? The food we serve our students at school shouldn’t look this way, and as schools in many parts of Minnesota know today, it doesn’t have to.

More than 145 school districts in Minnesota have taken part in Farm to School programs that connect schools and local farms to serve healthful meals in school cafeterias, improve student nutrition, provide agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities, and support local and regional farmers. In fact, 68 percent of Minnesota’s K-12 population attends a school that is involved in Farm to School in one way or another. Still, there is much more that can be done.

Research has demonstrated students learn better when they’re well nourished. Healthful eating has been linked to higher grades, better memory, more alertness and improved health, leading to better school attendance. The choice of healthier options through Farm to School meals results in consumption of more fruits and vegetables in the school cafeteria and at home.

This should come as no surprise: Farm-fresh products taste better, and it has been shown that children prefer them. Schools report up to a 16 percent increase in school meal participation when farm-fresh food is served. At a recent visit to schools participating in Farm to School programs, we saw students with plates heaping with fresh strawberries, cucumbers, Brussels sprouts and tomatoes that might have still been warm from the sun shining over the garden where they were picked.

Students even get to know some of the local farmers who provide foods to the schools. Think about the unique learning opportunities that come with knowing who has grown the food that is on your plate. Then consider: should this experience be so unique?


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