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Showing posts from June 2013. Show all posts

Building Bridges for Multiculturalism and Commerce

Posted on June 18, 2013 at 11:06 AM
Categories: Trade Mission

Ambassador Brzezinski, Governor Dayton, Foreign Minister Bildt and Mrs. Natalia Brzezinski

Ambassador Brzezinski, Governor Dayton, Foreign Minister Bildt and Mrs. Natalia Brzezinski. Photo credit: Brzezinski Blog

This post was originally published by Swedish Ambassador Mark Brzezinski on Brzezinski Blog on June 17, 2013.

This week we had the privilege of welcoming Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and a trade delegation of Minnesota business, universities and scientific and medical institutions to Stockholm, Sweden.  Among the fifty states, Minnesota boasts the highest number of Swedish Americans (almost 500,000).  The family ties, business relationships, scientific and university exchanges, and cultural linkages between Minnesota and Sweden combine to create a strong and growing connection.  The Governor’s visit gave us the chance to frame some of the key opportunities Minnesota and Sweden have to work together to advance common interests.  The values shared between Sweden and Minnesota are so many:  a commitment to cultivating the next generation through great education; the endless possibilities provided by scientific innovation, R&D and global commerce; a love for the great outdoors and a shared Northern topography; and even Ice Hockey – Governor Dayton is a former Division I Hockey player (a goalie), and Sweden just won the Ice Hockey World Championships!

The very first event we held for the Governor was a Diversity Dialogue with the Somali community in Sweden, and we had a mix of people around the table from a variety of fields.  The U.S. Embassy has started a new initiative we call “Diversity Dialogues,” which are an opportunity for us to gather Americans and Swedes to discuss issues related to diversity in both our countries.  Last October, when I travelled with the Swedish King and Queen to Minnesota, I broke off from the delegation to meet with representatives from the American Refugee Committee and the “I am a star” program – a Minnesota-based community project that highlights Somali-American contributions.  This time the Somali community in Sweden, as well as NGO’s and government officials interested in their welfare, had the opportunity to hear from the Governor of the U.S. state with the most Somali-Americans and to hear about Minnesota’s experience with assimilation of the Somali community.  The Governor’s incredibly thoughtful perspective on what has worked and what still needs work in Minnesota was really embraced by the participants in our Diversity Dialogue, and he was able to place his perspective in a context of Minnesota’s 150-year plus tradition of welcoming immigrants.  The Diversity Dialogue was followed by a large reception, where many representatives of Swedish government, business, NGO’s, and academia met the Governor and the Minnesota delegation.  We were deeply honored that Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, Swedish State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Frank Belfrage, and the next Swedish Ambassador to Washington Bjorn Lyrvall attended, demonstrating the significance they place on the Minnesota – Sweden relationship.


Minnesota Economy Among Country's Fastest-Growing

Posted on June 17, 2013 at 3:34 PM
Categories: Economy

Minnesota had the fifth fastest growing economy in 2012. Currently, Minnesota is experiencing healthy growth – creating new jobs for Minnesotans and new opportunities for businesses. In 2012, Minnesota’s gross domestic product grew by 3.5 percent – 1 percent higher than the national average.

As a state, Minnesota has one of the country's lowest unemployment rates too. And the Twin Cities, the state's major economic engine, had the second-lowest unemployment rate among major U.S. metropolitan areas during April.

While these improvements are indicators Minnesota’s economy is moving in the right direction. Gov. Mark Dayton has continued to push new initiatives designed to help create good jobs for Minnesotans.

To help create jobs for Minnesotans, Gov. Dayton and the legislature provided new funding for the Minnesota Investment Fund and the Job Creation Fund, which provide loans and grants to businesses that create new jobs for Minnesotans.

Gov. Dayton also successfully advocated for tax law changes that will help businesses expand and create new jobs. Right now, when businesses invest in new capital equipment, they pay sales tax and get reimbursed later. Beginning 2016 under the simplified law, businesses simply will receive an upfront tax exemption on these purchases.


Governor Dayton Visits World Renowned Research University in Stockholm

Posted on June 17, 2013 at 12:51 PM

Aula Medica in Stockholm, Sweden
Photo Credit: Karolinska Institutet 

Gov. Mark Dayton; Dr. Cliff Steer, University of Minnesota Medical School; DEED Commissioner Katie Sieben; and Minnesota Trade Office Director KathleenMotzenbecker visited the Karolinska Institutet, a world renowned medical research university in Stockholm, where they discussed innovation exchange.

The institute’s commitment to innovation is reflected in services it provides to businesses through its Innovation Office that include:
  • General advice concerning the development of innovations;
  • Support with patenting issues and questions of intellectual property rights; and
  • Help with grant applications.

Minnesota’s research universities have more than 30 years of relationships, partnerships, exchanges and joint projects with Karolinska Institutet that have resulted in joint publications, research grants and discoveries that are aimed at improving the health of people worldwide. Renowned researchers from Karolinska Institutet have worked in the Minnesota labs of Robert Elde, Ph.D. and others.

Both the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic scientists have benefited from research opportunities and time in Stockholm.

The group also went to Karolinska Institutet’s new lecture hall complex, Aula Medica, and toured its 1,000-seat auditorium. Aula Medica will offer added office space and restaurants and enable the institute to hold major public events, such as the Nobel lectures, which attract audiences from around the world.

The complex is scheduled for completion this summer. While the outside of the complex is finished, work is now underway on the building’s interior.

For more information about the governor’s trade mission to Sweden, Norway and Germany, Click here.

Photos of the and its auditorium are available here.


Governor Dayton Departs On Trade Mission To Europe

Posted on June 13, 2013 at 3:36 PM
Categories: Trade Mission, Commerce

Stortinget: Parliamentary building in Oslo, Norway
Photo of Stortinget, the parliamentary building in Oslo, Norway. Photo Credit: Flicker user, Chris Brown.

Governor Dayton along with a delegation of 35 business executives, government officials and higher education leaders landed in Europe this morning, kicking-off their nine-day trade mission to Germany, Sweden and Norway from June 12 to 21.

The goal is to build relationships on this mission that will attract new export opportunities for Minnesota businesses and encourage companies in those countries to expand their operations in the state.

Delegates sign up for the trade mission because it offers them a unique opportunity to:
  • Explore new trade opportunities;
  • Gather market insights;
  • Acquire business contacts and potential partners and distributors; and
  • Work to attract investment to Minnesota.
The group will visit key business centers in Berlin, Dusseldorf/Cologne, Oslo and Stockholm, meet with business leaders and government officials, and participate in networking events and other activities.

Past trade missions have proved highly successful. During the governor’s last trade mission to China in June, several Minnesota companies and their Chinese partners closed deals. For example, Carlson Rezidor signed a deal for three new Radisson Hotels in Chinese cities; Nova-Tech Engineering, an agricultural robotics developer and manufacturer, closed a collaborative deal with a major poultry company.


Minnesota Department of Veteran Affairs Launches New and Improved Website Design

Posted on June 12, 2013 at 8:00 AM
Categories: Veterans, Military Servicemembers

Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs unveiled a newly redesigned website       

Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs unveiled a newly redesigned website.

In our continuing effort to be in the forefront of providing the best service and care to our state’s Veterans, the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs unveiled a newly redesigned website. Nearly 370,000 Veterans call Minnesota home and they can now access information through this comprehensive and exciting new resource at

Partnering with Roseville Based consulting firm, High Monkey, MDVA created a clear and user friendly website that offers assistance with requesting discharge papers, resources on employment, health & disability, burials, information on the five State Veterans Home, the GI Bill, and other legislative developments.

“This website provides a vibrant, seamless view of our department and the resources available to Minnesota Veterans. This is just another example of how we’re committed to making Minnesota Government better for Veterans who served, as well as those who continue to serve. The end result of our new MDVA website was based largely on feedback from our stakeholders - the Veterans we serve - alongside extensive research and testing that has brought us to this unveiling,” said Larry Shellito, MDVA Commissioner.

The new website also features a “State Veteran Homes” section that provides information about the five state Veteran Homes that provide nursing care and domiciliary services. This section includes virtual tours, services offered, admission details, facility history, and how families can get involved.

The improved website will be accessible by using the URL of and the official state website address

Minnesota Grabs Top Rank for Healthiest Place to Live

Posted on June 07, 2013 at 12:59 PM
Categories: Health

A biker utilizes one of the Twin Cities' many bike paths.

Minnesota ranked number one for senior health and the Twin Cities ranked top for fit metro areas. Photo Credit: Flickr user, Michael Hicks

Minnesotans have yet another thing to be proud of--their good health.  Reports released last week named Minnesota the healthiest state in the nation for seniors, and Minneapolis-St. Paul the fittest metro area in the United States. 

The report, released by the United Health Foundation, ranks Minnesota the healthiest state in the nation for seniors.  This ranking recognizes Minnesota’s longstanding commitment to health care services and long-term care for the state’s older citizens.  Minnesota topped the list based on a variety of factors which lead to good health including prescription drug coverage, availability of home health care workers, and rate of annual dental visits.  Minnesota also scored well with a high percentage of seniors reporting very good or excellent health, a low rate of premature death, and a low rate of hospitalizations for hip fractures. 

The American College of Sports Medicine’s annual American Fitness Index ranked Minneapolis-St. Paul the fittest metro area in the country for the third time in a row.  The ranking takes into account health factors including smoking, exercise, obesity rates, chronic health issues, and access to healthcare.  It also considers environmental factors such as parks, trails, recreational facilities and farmers’ markets.  The cities’ large per-capita investment in parks and high rate of physical activity were also factors in the first place ranking. 

While these reports provide good news for the state, they also show that Minnesota still has room for improvement in the area of health.  The United Health Foundation found that Minnesota has a low rate of seniors with a dedicated health care provider and low community support expenditures for low income seniors.  The American College of Sports Medicine found that many Minneapolis-St. Paul residents should increase their fruit intake, to ensure that they are getting the five recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables.  More Twin Cities residents also need to quit smoking, according to the American College of Sports Medicine's findings.  

These rankings are a promising illustration of Minnesota’s commitment to good health and fitness.  With poor health at an all-time high nationwide, Minnesota is making strides in the right direction. 

View the United Health Foundation report here.

View the American College of Sports Medicine's American Fitness Index here.


Making College More Affordable

Posted on June 06, 2013 at 12:01 PM
Categories: Education

Governor Dayton is joined by legislators and constituents as he ceremoniously signs the omnibus higher-ed bill at the Minnesota State Capitol

Governor Dayton is joined by legislators and constituents as he ceremoniously signs the omnibus higher-ed bill at the Minnesota State Capitol 

Access to higher education is crucial to ensure that Minnesota has a competitive workforce that is prepared to fill the jobs of the future. That is why the budget enacted by Governor Dayton and the legislature makes a significant investment in college affordability and improving our state colleges and universities. By investing $250 million in higher education, with $46 million going to direct financial aid for students, the budget brings the dream of a higher education within reach for even more Minnesotans.  

A $250 Million Investment in Higher Education

» The Largest Investment in Direct Financial Aid in a Generation. State financial assistance has not kept pace with rising tuition and the other increased costs of post-secondary education. That is why the budget enacted by Governor Dayton invests an additional $46 million in the State Grant program, which will provide more than 100,000 students with financial aid.

  • Helping For More Than 100,000 Students. The budget adjusts the State Grant Program to ensure middle class students have the help they need to afford higher education. This will provide financial assistance to an additional 9,000 Minnesota students. 
  • An Average Award of $1,740 Per Student. The budget adjusts the current State Grant Program formula to better reflect all of the costs of a higher education. Between rising tuition and the costs of living associated with going to school, the current system is inadequate. On average, this budget provides each State Grant Program recipient an additional $181 per year. The average total grant through the program is $1,740 per student.  

» Freezing Tuition for College Students. This budget freezes tuition at all MNSCU and University of Minnesota campuses starting for the 2014-2015 school year.  This will continue to help put the dream of a college education within reach for Minnesota students.  


MDHR Offers Employers a Toolkit on Minnesota’s New ‘Ban the Box’ Law signed by Governor Mark Dayton Today

Posted on June 05, 2013 at 12:08 PM
Categories: Human Rights

Governor Dayton is joined by legislators and constituents in a mock signing for 'Ban the Box' legislation

Governor Dayton is joined by legislators and constituents in a mock signing for 'Ban the Box' legislation

As Gov. Mark Dayton ceremonially signed a bill expanding the "Ban the Box" law to private employers today, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights is providing a toolkit on the requirements of the new law, which goes into effect beginning Jan. 1, 2014.
"This is a significant piece of legislation," said Commissioner of Human Rights Kevin Lindsey. "Ninety-two million Americans currently have either an arrest or a criminal conviction in their past. This law offers the vast majority of individuals with a non-violent criminal record a second chance at an opportunity for employment to better their lives.”
The new law requires private employers to wait until a job applicant has been selected for an interview, or a conditional offer of employment has been extended, before asking a job applicant about criminal records or conducting a criminal background check. This requirement has applied to public employers since 2009.
Existing laws will continue to protect vulnerable adults and children from people with violent or sexual criminal histories. Additionally, employers may exclude applicants if a crime is relevant to the position's job duties.


Lieutenant Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon Leads Effort to Improve the Lives of Minnesotans with Disabilities

Posted on June 04, 2013 at 10:00 AM
Categories: Lt. Gov. Prettner Solon, Health

photo_yvonne_prettner_solon.jpgSpeaking at the Department of Human Services Tuesday, Lt. Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon outlined Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan, which will help improve the quality of life enjoyed by Minnesotans with disabilities.

The plan lays out the state’s goals to ensure that Minnesotans with disabilities have the freedom and opportunity to live independently, to contribute to the workforce, and to become fully integrated into their communities.

“Those who can live independently should own the choice to live on their own,” the Lt. Governor said. “As a state, we should be doing everything we can to make that possible.”
The Olmstead Plan takes its name from the 1999 United States Supreme Court decision Olmstead v. L.C. The decision ruled that unjustified segregation of persons with disabilities constitutes discrimination in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In January 2013, Governor Dayton created an Olmstead Sub-Cabinet to oversee the implementation of a plan to better meet the needs of persons with disabilities living in Minnesota.

On Tuesday, Lt. Governor Prettner Solon, chair of the Olmstead Sub-Cabinet, said that once implemented the plan will have a profound impact on the lives of Minnesotans.

“More and more Minnesotans with disabilities will have the courage, skills, and support to step forthrightly into their communities, work with purpose and dignity in our local businesses, and reach with confidence for their highest aspirations,” she said.

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