skip to content
Primary navigation
Feature image for History of Commerce

History of Commerce

History of Minnesota Department of Commerce

The history of the Minnesota Department of Commerce is rooted in several predecessor offices and departments, including the oldest regulatory agency in the State of Minnesota. It reflects the State of Minnesota’s historic commitment to assist and protect consumers, and to foster a fair, competitive marketplace.

Year History
1871 The Legislature established the Office of Railroad Commissioner to regulate railroads. It was the first act for industry regulation in Minnesota.
1885 The Legislature renamed the office to the Railroad and Warehouse Commission and expanded its authority. After farmers claimed that the railroads were cheating them in grain sales, the law established Weights & Measures within the Commission to test the accuracy of commercial scales and products sold by weight and volume. Weights & Measures still exists today within the Department of Commerce.
1913 The department known as the Labor, Industry and Commerce Bureau became the Labor and Industries Department.
1915 The Railroad and Warehouse Commission was granted jurisdiction over telephone service.
1925 The Commerce Commission was created under the Legislature’s Reorganization Act of 1925 to consolidate the Banking Department, Insurance Department, Fire Marshal’s Office and Commissioner of Securities.
1965 The Commerce Commission’s role expanded to administration and enforcement of real estate licensing.
1967 The Legislature transformed the Railroad and Warehouse Commission into the Department of Public Service, with a Public Service Commission and an Administrative Division.
1969 By executive order, Gov. LeVander established the Office of Consumer Services, which is the current Commerce Department Enforcement Division.
1974 Minnesota became the 48th state to regulate the rates of natural gas and electric utilities.
1980 Acting on a Legislative Audit report, the Legislature created two separate entities: The Public Service Commission became the Public Utilities Commission and the Administrative Division became the Department of Public Service.
1983 Under Gov. Perpich, the Commerce Commission, with its Banking Commissioner, Insurance Commissioner, Commissioner of Real Estate & Securities, and Director of Office of Consumer Services, was replaced by the Department of Commerce** under a Commerce Commissioner.
1991 Commerce Commissioner Bert McKasy split the department's financial examinations division into separate insurance and banking divisions.
1999 By executive order, Gov. Ventura merged the energy and telecommunications divisions of the Department of Public Service into the Department of Commerce.
2001 The Legislature enacted state law to confirm Gov. Ventura’s reorganization, placing the energy resources division under the Department of Commerce and splitting the enforcement rules of the Public Service Department between the PUC, Commissioner of Transportation and Commissioner of Commerce.

Commissioners for the Department of Commerce are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature. Commissioners appointed by:

  • Gov. Rudy Perpich: Mike Hatch (1983-1989), Thomas Borman (1990-1991)
  • Gov. Arne Carlson: Jim Miller (Acting 1991), Bert J. McKasy (1991-1993), Patrick L. Nelson (Acting, 1993), James E. Ulland (1993-1995), David B. Gruenes (1995-1999)
  • Appointed by Gov. Jesse Ventura: Gary A. LaVasseur (Acting 1999), David M. Jennings (1999), Steven M. Minn (1999-2000), James C. Bernstein (2000-2003)
  • Gov. Tim Pawlenty: Glenn Wilson, Jr. (2003-2011), Manny Munson-Regala (Acting 2011)
  • Gov. Mark Dayton: Mike Rothman (2011-2017), Jessica Looman (2017-2019)
  • Gov. Tim Walz: Steve Kelly (2019-2020), Grace Arnold (2020-present)

** The Department of Commerce is not abbreviated as DOC, as that refers to the Minnesota Department of Corrections. The Department of Commerce on second reference is referred to as the Commerce Department or simple Commerce.

This content last updated on January 9, 2023
back to top