This past Tuesday, June 12, Lieutenant Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon showed her support for University Avenue’s locally-owned businesses when she attended “Lunch on the Avenue” at Ngon’s Bistro. Lieutenant Governor Solon met with business leaders from the Midway area including Midway Chamber of Commerce Board Chair Paul McGinley and representatives from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and the Met Council. Others who attended include Robert McPherson, an insurance risk consultant with Western Insurance Agency in St. Paul and Chris Ferguson, President and CEO of Bywater Business Solutions in Minneapolis.
Deep-fried and served on a stick or wok-fried and served with chopsticks, food is one of the strongest connections between Minnesota and China.
Food is not just something to eat. It’s a reflection of taste and culture and geography and more. Food says a lot about people. It’s why we find the food in other countries and regions so interesting.
So it makes sense that Governor Mark Dayton’s trade mission to China has a strong emphasis on agriculture and food. It makes dollars, too. A whole lot of them.
China is Minnesota’s top market for agricultural commodities and related food products, with purchases of $1.35 billion in 2010.
“That accounts for more than one-fourth of Minnesota’s agricultural exports,” says state Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson, who is traveling with the delegation.
“In the past 10 years, our ag exports to China have jumped 800 percent, mostly driven by exports of bulk and intermediate commodities,” said Frederickson. “China’s the top buyer and the main market for Minnesota soybeans and a growing market for our pork.”
And it’s not just commodities. Sales of processed foods were $202 million. Push a cart through the aisles of a big supermarket in China and you’ll find more than a few iconic Minnesota food brands on the shelves.
Trumpeting the Bugles®
At one time or another, most Minnesota kids have eaten Bugles®, those crunchy, cone-shaped corn snacks made by General Mills that small children especially love to wear on their fingertips like a witch’s fingernails.
But unless you’ve been in China, you’ve never eaten “Seaweed” flavored Bugles®. In the Chinese market, the snack is made with potatoes, corn or rice and comes in dozens of flavors. In fact, Bugles® has become the leading brand among non-potato chip snacks in Greater China.
Curious how they market Bugles® in China? Take a look at this commercial on YouTube:
Today, Governor Dayton will lead a delegation on a ten-day trade mission to China, traveling to Beijing, Shanghai and Xian (the capital of Shaanxi Province) for market and industry briefings, business match-making events, networking events and meetings with key U.S. and Chinese government officials. The 50-member group of business, industry, education and government leaders will attend market and industry briefings, networking events, and meetings with key U.S. and Chinese officials.
The delegation will also host multiple receptions for top Chinese government officials and business executives to showcase Minnesota companies and export industries, as well as promote the state as an ideal destination for direct investment by China. Minnesota has had an official relationship with China since signing the sister-state agreement with Shaanxi Province in 1982.
As the trip unfolds, the Governor’s office will be covering the delegation in a special blog series that explores how trade missions foster new relationships via commerce, agriculture, trade, and the environment. You can get daily updates on the delegation by signing up for our e-mail list, checking back on the blog, or following Governor Dayton on Twitter and Facebook. We will showcase highlights of the delegation, highlight our sister-province relationship, and post photos of the Governor’s meetings across the state. We hope that you will travel along with us as the Minnesota delegation embarks on its trade mission across China.
Governor Dayton and his administration are always looking for ways to help farms and businesses prosper in Minnesota. One of the simple but really effective tools the Minnesota Department of Agriculture makes available is a Directory of Minnesota Organic Farms.
It’s clear that organic food has gone beyond fad to a mainstream choice for many consumers, and we want to help Minnesota’s organic farms and food companies capitalize on this interest. Organic food (and even organic feed for animals) must contain organic ingredients and here in Minnesota we grow a lot of these ingredients. Our 700+ organic farms raise organic corn, wheat, oats, barley, rye, flax, soybeans, sunflowers, milk, eggs, beef, eggs, chickens, fruits and vegetables, and just about anything else you can think of. To make it easier for Minnesota’s organic food companies to use organic ingredients in their products, the Directory of Minnesota Organic Farms was created. It lists farmers who sell in quantity to “intermediate buyers” such as food companies, restaurants, grocery stores, brokers, etc. The buyers can look up the farmer by product (“blue corn” for example), or by county, if they are looking for farmers close to their manufacturing facility or store. The directory is available in print and online at www.mda.state.mn.us/organic
In a recent Pioneer Press editorial, Commissioner of Revenue Myron Frans writes that "The primary concern for state policy makers and business leaders should be our state's overall business climate and economic prosperity.”
Minnesota ranks among the top places to do business in several studies, including:
The greater Minneapolis-St. Paul region is the 12th-best market in the U.S. for small business creation and growth, in a study by the Business Journal (2011).
Health care start-ups in Minnesota raised $88.3 million in investment during the first half of 2011 - more than any other state - according to a study by BioEnterprise.
Minnesota ranks 4th in the Midwest in venture capital funding for life-sciences start-ups, according a 2010 survey by BioEnterprise.
Minnesota ranks 5th in the The Beacon Hill Institute's most recent State Competitiveness Report (2010).
Minnesota places 7th in CNBC's annual ranking of the Top Places To Do Business.
In addition, Minnesota has been ranked among the top five states nationwide in the 2010 Camelot Index, according to the State Policy Reports, based on our economy, health, education, crime, society and government. Minnesota has a strong economic foundation, and a quality of life that makes it an attractive place to live and do business.
Senior citizens are among the most vulnerable to fraud and financial abuse. Consumers over the age of 65 control 70 percent of the nation’s wealth, and crooks know it. In fact, each year con artists scam older Americans out of $2.5 billion.
To kick off Seniors Week of Financial Literacy Month, the Minnesota Department of Commerce, the Minnesota AARP, and the Office of the Lt. Governor are joining forces to raise awareness of fraud targeting older consumers and provide Minnesota seniors the information they need to protect their finances from the threat of financial abuse.
Scam artists and predatory lenders take advantage of consumers from all walks of life, causing foreclosures and financial hardship in Minnesota communities. Knowledge is often the foundation of financially secure communities and a consumer’s best defense against the pitfalls of predatory lending.
As Financial Literacy Month continues, Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman, Housing Finance Commissioner Mary Tingerthal, and Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey hosted a town hall forum at Dayton’s Bluff Recreation Center on Wednesday to discuss the adverse financial and community impacts of predatory lending in Minnesota and the steps Minnesotans can take to protect themselves from predatory lending practices.
The forum began with a panel discussion led by Commissioners Lindsey, Rothman, and Tingerthal regarding recent trends in predatory lending, the state’s role in protecting Minnesota consumers and communities from predatory lending, and the resources available to victims of predatory lending through Minnesota’s state agencies. Following the panel discussion, community members and advocates shared their personal stories about how predatory lending has affected their families, finances, and communities.
As financial products become more complex and scammers become more savvy, the need for on-going collaboration between the Commerce, Housing Finance, and Human Rights Departments resonated with both the panel and attendees. Continued outreach efforts to educate Minnesotans, including our immigrant communities and neighborhoods that have been adversely impacted by these predatory practices, underscore the need for financial literacy. Knowledge is the best defense against fraud and financial abuse.
As part of Governor Mark Dayton’s Better Government for a Better Minnesota reform effort, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry unveiled their new online license registration capability. The online program, called the ReNew system, will make the process of new license registrations and license renewals, faster, simpler, and more streamlined. This system will allow individuals to apply for or renew a license, certificate, or registration online.
“By using the ReNew licensing system, both renewals and initial applications submitted online can be processed a week faster than those submitted by mail,” said Labor and Industry Commissioner Ken Peterson. “Instead of mailing paper forms and checks for processing, online users can enter the necessary information, upload the required documents and pay their fee in a matter of minutes.”
Online users will benefit tremendously from this agency reform. They will be able to pay online, eliminating the hassle of possible payment complications like accidental overpayment or underpayment. Also, incomplete applications will be reviewed and processed more quickly, ensuring that applicants will not have the process hindered by a minor mistake. It will also eliminate wasted time and resources caused by delays in delivery and processing.
Article by: Columnist Neal St. Anthony
Published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on February 12, 2012 at 6:22 p.m.
Mild-mannered Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman, described by Republican and Democratic predecessors as a good listener, has put the teeth back into the agency.
Rothman, a business lawyer by trade, was hired by Gov. Mark Dayton a year ago with a mandate to step up consumer protection, enforcement and financial literacy initiatives at an agency that was perceived as less-than-aggressive under Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Since Rothman took over, several deputies who oversaw insurance, enforcement and banking have retired or left.
Former Commerce Commissioner Glenn Wilson, a career mortgage banker, has disputed that the agency was slow to respond to the mortgage meltdown that brought the nation's economy to its knees in 2008. Regardless, the pace of investigations, enforcement actions and the agency's profile have picked up under Rothman.
"I sensed an opportunity to reorganize and emphasize some things that could be done better," said Rothman. "We're responsible for protecting the public. We also want to make sure that business has an opportunity to succeed. There's a balance there. There are some bad actors out there. But the overwhelming number of Minnesota companies, 99 percent, are good citizens."