In January of 1987, Gov. Rudy Perpich took the oath of office for a third time, a time marred by a farming crisis, ongoing layoffs and a decline in the northern mining industry. An Iron Ranger, Perpich was the last Minnesota governor to be born and reared in Greater Minnesota. With thousands of citizens and farmers massing on the Capitol mall, and foreclosures and suicide reports rising, the governor and Legislature came out roaring with an ambitious plan to reinvest in Greater Minnesota.
It's time for a new investment plan for rural and non-metro Minnesota. The state can build on successful initiatives and a strong institutional public-private-nonprofit network that is already working on a rural renaissance.
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs report Past Silos and Smokestacks praises northeastern Minnesota's True North Initiative for turning seven county-level community colleges into one regional college, sparking a major new development strategy throughout the Arrowhead region.
And the report lauds efforts led by a number of state and local government agencies, rural businesses and other organizations to form the Partnership for Regional Competitiveness: Southern Minnesota. The partnership is working to create a strategic economic development plan for 38 counties across southern Minnesota, uniting three key regional assets -- the Mayo Clinic, the Hormel Institute, and the area’s farmers.
Momentum is gathering. Rural leaders are ready to forge ahead under state leadership, enthusiastic about renewing the promise and potential of Greater Minnesota and willing to lead that charge. Perseverance and optimism are crucial. And we should not be afraid to ask for sacrifice and common effort by all Minnesotans on behalf of Greater Minnesota, including new revenues and reasonable tax increases for the investments that need to be made.
Minnesota governors from the 1930s through the 1990s oversaw investments in research and education that created the taconite industry, rescued the mining industry, and developed a vocational-technical and community college system, among other successes. Past success is prologue for public action to preserve and enhance Greater Minnesota, for the common good of the entire state and a greater Minnesota.