The economy may be changing faster than anyone expected, said Commissioner Dan McElroy, Minnesota Department of Economic Development and Employment.
Between now and 2014, McElroy said there will be 30,500 new jobs and 20,000 new people - who will not all be of working age.
"That's an opportunity," McElroy said. "We need to convey that as an opportunity to young people."
And part of the mix is a changing way to look at economic development.
"We used to think of economic development as a real estate kind of issue," he said. That singular notion appears to be outdated.
McElroy will be in the Brainerd area Tuesday as the speaker for the Brainerd Lakes Area Development Corp.'s annual meeting. The meeting's topic is how Minnesota can remain competitive.
Last summer, DEED hosted a series of regional meetings aimed at mining local input. The question put to state and local leaders was to identify strategies the state needs to be competitive in order to grow robust economies for the future.
There are calls for changes in assumptions that young people need to migrate to metro areas to find career opportunities (the average household income in Crow Wing County is $42,000 as of 2005 and the commute times are often fractions compared to metro drives). Another assumption is that a high school education alone will be enough.
Not everyone needs a four-year degree, but McElroy said additional education of one or two or four years beyond the high school diploma is needed. There will be jobs of the future that we'll have a hard time defining now designed to solve problems people haven't thought about yet. Training students to be critical thinkers, problem solvers and innovators, McElroy said. He called it a shift from life-long employment to life-long employability.
McElroy said one message developed through those regional meetings was that the days of thinking of economic development as separate from the work force and education are probably behind us. Everyone has a stake in the outcome, McElroy said.
If you go
Brainerd Lakes Area Development Corp.'s annual meeting is 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday at Timbermist in Merrifield.
The event will address the economic competitiveness of Minnesota with speaker Commissioner Dan McElroy, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. And Anna Skrobecki, Wausau Paper vice president of operations, will talk about expanding a business to the Brainerd area.
Tickets are $15.
RSVP requested through Monday by e-mail to email@example.com or by calling 828-0096.
Ideas in the mix include:
School districts need opportunities for students to be exposed to more careers options for the 21st century.
Teachers need to know how studies like math and science are applied by the work force.
Employers and trade associations need to be involved in education through mentorships, internships, job shadowing, career day and other classroom volunteering opportunities.
Employers may have to have a better plan to work with a new demographic, retirees and creating more opportunities for older workers.
A DEED study released this fall show about 53 percent of manufacturers are involved in the school system. While 53 percent is encouraging, McElroy said that means 47 percent are not.
This summer the Star Tribune reported Minnesota's growth in jobs, per-capita personal income and output of good and services, once a national leader, is now growing at a lower pace than the national average since 2004.
McElroy agreed there were concerns but he didn't agree with the assessment Minnesota's salad days were over. He said the state is doing a great deal of research to see where it can find causes. McElroy said the more research they do the more they think the concern is in industries related to the housing crunch.
"Not all the news about manufacturing is bad," McElroy said. Manufacturing accounts for 13 percent of jobs in the state but nearly 20 percent of the payroll. And McElroy said some manufacturing is coming back from overseas.
"There are likely to be opportunities in manufacturing for a long time to come," McElroy said, adding the work is going to be more technical than the manufacturing jobs of the past. And as companies become more technical and efficient they will be able to increase productivity without adding as many jobs as they previously did.
There are 2.7 million jobs in Minnesota. Nearly one in seven of those jobs are in manufacturing.
Economies are complex structures. McElroy said because of the complexity he likens a change in economies not as altering the course of a single, slow moving super tanker, but considers it more like the effort of turning an armada with thousands of individual captains making decisions.
Crow Wing County is doing well and is clearly a major regional hub, McElroy said. And in a rapidly changing economy, McElroy said the state also is doing well. "But not as well as we want it to," he said.
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5852.
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