Minnesota was named the fastest-growing state for tech jobs in the country by Forbes in 2015. CNET also championed the Minnesota tech scene for startups seeking funding, and Huffington Post listed Minneapolis as one of the top 10 cities for techies should move to earlier this year.
Quietly, the North Star State has emerged as a leader in tech jobs and startups.
But, even with all the positive press, “quietly” is still the operative word. Minnesota still isn’t known, or respected, as a tech hub.
Minnesota’s issues with tech
One possible reason for this is Minnesota’s wariness when moving forward with the speed required to keep up with the industry. It took only a year for California to change legislation and allow the testing of driverless cars. Would/could the same thing happen in Minnesota, a state notorious for spending ample time, money, resources “studying” before enacting change?
As the Star Tribune identified:
“For a state known for innovation (think 3M or Best Buy), there’s also a confounding resistance to change that interferes with making improvements or exploring new ideas at work.”
It was also noted by the Strib, back in 2014, that the lack of a major tech firm (a Google, Amazon, Apple, etc.) was causing many of Minnesota’s startups to head west; the problem isn’t founding startups, the problem is keeping them here. We may have a plethora of Fortune 500 companies hiring tech workers, but when a startup looks to sell out or merge, they must do it outside of the state.
To go even further back, you’ll find that Minnesota was once a major presence in America’s growing tech sector. Companies like UNIVAC, Honeywell, IBM, Control Data and more had major operations in Minnesota. From the mid-1960’s to the mid-1980’s, Minnesota was where young professionals were flocking to get in on the computer boom (and gave us Oregon Trail, among other things). These young professionals are nearing, or have already reached, retirement age, however, and the state hasn’t kept up.
Or maybe it has, just not in the same way as Silicon Valley.
Where the tech is Minnesota?
With Minnesota at the forefront of the medical device and health sectors, industries that are beginning to rely more on more on modern technologies, as well as major corporations like 3M, General Mills, and Target incorporating more tech jobs into their layout, it’s clear that the praise the state has received is warranted.
And while we mentioned that Minnesota was losing startups to the bigger dogs (“follow the money”) out on the coasts, there is plenty of activity: TECHdotMN, Minnov8, Minne*, and other initiatives have worked for years to develop Minnesota’s presence in the tech world, and it’s starting to pay off:
Local companies like Code42, a cloud-based data backup software firm, and JAMF, an Apple software developer that has spread internationally, and even larger firms like Proto Labs, which deals in 3D printing, CNC Machining, and injection molding, have established themselves as prominent, forward-thinking, successful tech companies.
Also, as we mentioned in the TiltMN article You and A.I., Minnesota is pushing research heavily on the collegiate level now as well. Minnesota’s top-tier higher education system might, in the long run, be the biggest thing that draws billions of business dollars to Minnesota; knowledge is generally rewarded. Companies have been known to invest in communities where education is strong, and seek new talent among graduates ready to work.
Shine a light
Minnesota may indeed still be struggling to find its place in this quick-shifting, ever-changing industry. The cleverly-titled DocuMNtary: The Story of tech in Minnesota is looking to change that, and shine a light on Minnesota’s dynamic, diverse tech sector.
The film’s objective is “to help Minnesota become a top 5 tech community by retaining and attracting top technology talent,” and, by speaking with key local business leaders, politicians, and other experts, aims to create a comprehensive look at Minnesota’s past, present, and future as a high tech hub.
Watch the DocuMNtary the trailer:
The filmmakers, Nick Roseth, producer, and Eric Jensen, videographer, are both deeply rooted in the industry. Roseth, having spent fifteen years in digital, and Jensen, filming for companies like Stratasys, Medtronic, and Tech Logic, know firsthand that Minnesota has both a long history of innovation and disruption in the world of technology, and a bright future as well.
DocuMNtary will premier at 7pm, September 22nd, 2016 at the the U of M’s McNamara Alumni Center, immediately following the MN Cup Awards.
Note: the first release is already sold out, but tickets for the second release will be available on August 29. You can find them here: DocuMNtary Film Release