New MN DEED Commissioner Steve Grove Stops in Rochester to Hear from SE MN Entrepreneurs

Photo courtesy of RAEDI. Back row from left to right: Ryan Nolander, President of RAEDI; Chris Schad, Director of Business Development for Discovery Square; Samantha Strand, Executive Director at Garage Co-Work Space; Jame Sundsbak, Community Manager of Collider Coworking; Andy Vig, Cofounder of SHRPA; Sean Williams, Cofounder of Comicker LLC. Front row from left to right: Judy Lundy, Innovation Coordinator with Austin Community Growth Ventures; Neela Mollgaard, Executive Director at Red Wing Ignite; Carla Nelson, Minnesota State Senator; Shruthi Naik, Cofounder at Vyriad; Steve Grover, Commissioner at MN DEED; Amanda Leightner, Founder of Rochester Rising; and Xavier Frigola, Director of Entrepreneurship at RAEDI.

Photo courtesy of RAEDI. Back row from left to right: Ryan Nolander, President of RAEDI; Chris Schad, Director of Business Development for Discovery Square; Samantha Strand, Executive Director at Garage Co-Work Space; Jame Sundsbak, Community Manager of Collider Coworking; Andy Vig, Cofounder of SHRPA; Sean Williams, Cofounder of Comicker LLC. Front row from left to right: Judy Lundy, Innovation Coordinator with Austin Community Growth Ventures; Neela Mollgaard, Executive Director at Red Wing Ignite; Carla Nelson, Minnesota State Senator; Shruthi Naik, Cofounder at Vyriad; Steve Grover, Commissioner at MN DEED; Amanda Leightner, Founder of Rochester Rising; and Xavier Frigola, Director of Entrepreneurship at RAEDI.

Newly minted Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (MN DEED) Commissioner Steve Grove visited with entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial ecosystem builders from across southeastern Minnesota in Rochester this Friday. His mission: to listen and learn about the local entrepreneurial ecosystem and to receive input on Governor Tim Walz’s proposal to spur innovation in the state.

Grove, a native of Northfield, Minnesota, was appointed into the Commissioner position with MN DEED by Walz after a long career in the private sector. As a trained journalist, Grove spent time at The Boston Globe and ABC News. Although new to MN DEED, Grove is no stranger to tech innovation. He spent over four years as Head of News and Politics at YouTube prior to his most recent post as Director of Google News.

While building his career on the west coast, Grove retained strong roots to the Midwest. He and wife Mary co-founded the nonprofit Silicon North Stars in 2013. This organization connects underserved tech-driven Minnesotan youth with tech startups and venture capital firms in Silicon Valley for an immerse learning experience. Mary Grove currently runs the Minneapolis office for the venture capital firm Rise of the Rest, an organization launched by AOL founder Steve Case to increase investment outside of the coasts. 

Now, Grove and Governor Walz are thinking of ways to grow the innovation economy in Minnesota to help foster the region as a powerhouse to start and grow tech companies.

Grove visited Rochester last week to meet with local entrepreneurs, entrepreneurial ecosystem builders, and local government to tour innovation sectors in Rochester and to better understand strengths and weaknesses in the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Grove also received feedback and questions about the Governor’s $9M proposal to create a new Minnesota Innovation Collaboration (MIC). If approved, the MIC would utilize grants and other resources to make Minnesota a more attractive place to start a tech company. The program would be administered by MN DEED.  

“I think it’s great that the Commissioner comes to the position with private world experience in the technology and innovation sector. The program that he and the Governor are proposing seems to be on track and I think it was important that we were able to provide input,” said Ryan Nolander, President of Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc. “Hopefully they take that input and create programs that are flexible enough to truly assist us with growing our regional entrepreneur ecosystem.” 

Walz’s MIC proposal includes a number of incentives to help lower the state’s risk aversion and encourage startup growth. Proposed incentives include one year of health insurance coverage and research and development vouchers. Walz’s proposal also includes the revival of the Angel Tax Credit in Minnesota to encourage investment in early stage Minnesotan startups. The credit expired in 2017.

“MIC could mean big things for all of Minnesota. We need to reduce barriers such as access to affordable healthcare to allow our makers, doers, and dreamers to start companies right here in Minnesota,” explained Jamie Sundsbak, Community Manager of Collider Coworking. “The MIC plan will also empower local ecosystem builders and will increase funding for entrepreneurial education at the local level. I applaud Governor Walz, Commissioner Grove, and everyone working on the legislation for their efforts.”

Building An Entrepreneurial Ecosystem- Where Do We Go From Here?


An entrepreneurial ecosystem, as defined by the Kauffman Foundation, is defined as “people and the culture of trust and collaboration that allows them to interact successfully.” A productive entrepreneurial ecosystem permits the accelerated flow of “talent, information, and resources” to entrepreneurs at all stages of growth. An entrepreneurial ecosystem also harnesses the ability to bolster the local and national economy. Powerful entrepreneurial ecosystems create jobs and attract and retain people.

Important to the process of building an entrepreneurial ecosystem is uncovering resources and initiatives already taking place to support entrepreneurs and connecting these entities to bolster and spur innovation 

In entrepreneurial ecosystem building, no one community stands alone.

No single city, organization or entity has enough resources and expertise to provide all the support that an entrepreneur requires. Instead, we need to all work together, as a region, to fully enable our startups and small businesses to achieve the highest level of success. 

What could this process of entrepreneurial ecosystem building look like in southeastern Minnesota? The first step is to examine what supporting resources we have in our region, understand what initiatives are working, and connect the dots across this portion of the state. 

A few weeks ago, I had the honor of attending a southeastern Minnesota entrepreneurial ecosystem building summit, organized by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development and the University of Minnesota Extension. The purpose: to connect conversations about entrepreneurship taking place across the region and to raise awareness of innovation efforts occurring in our various communities.

This gathering included representation from across southeastern Minnesota including the Austin Startup Factory, a fifty-two-week educational partnership program between Austin Community Growth Ventures and Iowa State University; the Albert Lea Tiger Cage, a brand new, three-phase entrepreneurial startup competition; and Garage Cowork, a coworking space opening in October to keep talent in Winona, Minnesota and to cultivate a culture of entrepreneurship in that community. 

To start connecting these various pieces across the region and building infrastructure that works for our entrepreneurs, we should examine lessons learned from other communities. We have a great example locally with Forge North.

Forge North is a “movement of entrepreneurs, investors, collaborators, and allies from all industries working together to grow Minnesota’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.” This organization is an initiative of Greater MSP, an economic development authority focused on the sixteen counties of the Twin Cities metro area, which has had recent increased statewide and national focus. 

Forge North serves as a neutral convening organization to bridge multiple different parts of the entrepreneurial ecosystem together in a larger “network of networks” to spur and support entrepreneurial initiatives and to sustain that entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

What has worked best, Forge North Manager Meg Steuer explained, are community-based grassroots efforts where the entrepreneurs feel that their voices are being heard.

“It’s really about people. It’s about the people we support and how do we involve them in this work to truly create a system that benefits its entrepreneurs,” she said.

Based on all of these thoughts, here are eight suggestions of how we can begin to build a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem in southeastern Minnesota.

1.     Just show up.

2.     Trust and support each other.

3.     Let your actions speak louder than your words.

4.     Take risks and help others who want to do the same.

5.     Include everyone who wants to participate.

6.     Encourage and uplift those who have failed.

7.     Let the entrepreneurs lead.

8.     Be patient.

Press Release: Motivated Organizations Partner to Celebrate Manufacturing Week 2017


Stewartville, Minnesota- Manufacturing week will be celebrated around the nation during October 1-7. Many communities promote tours as an opportunity for individuals to understand the high-tech and innovative work environments that these organizations provide.

Community and Economic Development Associates (CEDA) has partnered with the State of Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and Journey To Growth (J2G) to host tours of manufacturing facilities in four communities in southeastern Minnesota: Stewartville, Rochester, Blooming Prairie and Caledonia. The schedule for events is as follows:

10/3/2017 (TUES) Stewartville- 9:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. (Kick-off event with DEED Commissioner Shawntera Hardy)

10/3/2017 (TUES) Rochester - 1 p.m.- 3 p.m. (Mayor Ardell Brede)

10/4/2017 (WED) Blooming Prairie - 1 p.m.- 3 p.m.

10/5/2017 (THURS) Caledonia - 10 a.m.- 12 p.m. (noon)

Education professionals, elected officials, and media personnel are encouraged to attend one or more of these tours, which will consist of a brief appreciation ceremony including presentation of certificates from the Governor's office by an official from DEED as well as a guided tour at each company. Participants will be encouraged to share their experience through photos, videos, streaming, blogging, or other means of communication.

Because Minnesota is so well represented by the manufacturing industry sector, this event is a meaningful and important way to expose educators and elected officials to the diverse, impressive, abundant, and valuable career opportunities that exist in manufacturing.

The planning committee for the events is proud to announce that DEED Commissioner Shawntera Hardy will be participating in the SE MN Manufacturing Week kick-off event in Stewartville. Commissioner Hardy will be presenting certificates of recognition to Stewartville manufacturers HALCON and GEOTEK on Tuesday, October 3 at 9:30 a.m. at HALCON’s offices (1811 2nd Avenue Northwest, Stewartville, MN).

This event is open to education industry professionals, elected officials and media. To register, please contact Joya Stetson at 605-376-4127 or use the Eventbrite links for each event (hyperlinked above in schedule of events).


About Community and Economic Development Associates (CEDA)

CEDA was created in 1986 as a private, 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation then called the Southeastern Minnesota Development Corporation. In 2010, the agency became Community & Economic Development Associates (CEDA) as a result of increased interest and inquiries received from communities outside of the agency’s original service area of Southeast Minnesota. The name change reflects CEDA’s commitment to providing services to fit the needs of any rural community. CEDA provides onsite and/or project based economic and community development services to rural communities and counties in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Our team brings with it over 150 years of collective development experience. For additional information about CEDA and the services we provide, check out our website at


About Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED)

DEED is the state’s principal economic development agency, promoting business recruitment, expansion and retention, workforce development, international trade, and community development. For more details about the agency and its services, visit the  DEED website or follow DEED on  Twitter.


About Journey To Growth (J2G)

The Journey To Growth Partnership is a 501c3. J2G is a comprehensive five-year strategy coordinated by Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc. (RAEDI) and regional implementation partners to effectively grow and diversify the economy of the southeast region consisting of the following counties without borders: Dodge, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Steele, Wabasha, and Winona. For more information on the Journey To Growth Partnership visit and  J2G Facebook.

DEED Commissioner Highlights Strength of MN Economy, Warns of Labor Shortage Issues at Recent SE MN Economic Development Summit


Last week the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce’s Southeast Minnesota Economic Development Summit focused in on the state’s manufacturing industry and its importance to the Minnesota economy.

Keynote speaker and Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Commissioner Shawntera Hardy said she was excited to be in Southeast Minnesota for this event, in a region of the state “where so many great things are happening from an economic development standpoint.” Hardy is self-proclaimed “new kid on the block” at DEED, the state’s main agency for economic and workforce development. A graduate of Ohio State University, she has served as Commissioner at DEED since last April.

Hardy stated that Southeast Minnesota is “full of talented and innovative people.” She will return to the region next week with eight other state agency leaders for the “Commissioners on Wheels Tour,” visiting eleven different Southeast Minnesota communities and thirty businesses and organizations. During the tour, Hardy aims to get a first-hand look at important work being done in the region, efforts she said are critical to DEED’s mission “to highlight the success of current Minnesota companies and find new ways to attract new players to the state.”

DEED, Hardy stated, is committed to building an economy that works for all Minnesotans.

She said there are clear signs that the state’s economy, overall, is moving in the right direction. The latest jobs report showed the addition of 7,700 jobs that month in Minnesota. The unemployment rate in the state continues to hold steady at 3.7%. Minnesota gained 66,000 jobs over the past year. Furthermore, a recent U.S. News & World Report ranked Minnesota as the best state for workforce participation, which is seven percent higher than the national average.

Hardy said these are all signs that the state has a “national model for building an economy that works.”

“Minnesota’s overall economy is doing well,” she stated. “But there are challenges ahead on the horizon.”

One daunting issue the state faces is workforce, particularly a labor shortage caused by baby boomer retirement. Hardy said Minnesota’s workforce today is 40,000 workers smaller than it was one year ago. Minnesota had 98,000 unfilled jobs during the last quarter of 2016, among the highest levels ever in the state. Currently, 9,000 jobs remain unfilled in Southeast Minnesota alone.

DEED’s employment outlook tools indicate that 130,000 jobs will be created statewide over the next decade; 75,000 of these will be located in the southeast part of the state.

“We don’t have a job creation problem in Minnesota. We have a job matchmaking problem,” Hardy explained. “The challenge is how do we find the right people, with the right skills, to fill the existing future roles, while continuing to keep our economy strong?”

She said that DEED is taking an “all-in” approach to address these labor issues, which includes training or re-training of “seasoned” workers for the next stage in their careers.

“We cannot afford to ignore or not tap the Minnesotans that are ready to work,” she stated. Hardy believes that the state must take this challenge seriously in order to remain a top location for business and quality of life.

The state’s manufacturing industry, she said, well positions Minnesota to remain economically strong as it moves into the future.

“Minnesota’s manufacturing sector is the backbone of our state’s economy and the envy of our competitors, everywhere,” she stated.

One-third of all jobs in Minnesota are directly in manufacturing or a spinoff of the industry. Manufacturing, in Minnesota, pays higher wages on average and employs 38,000 workers. One-fifth of these jobs are located in Southeast Minnesota. Last year, the industry added $48B to the Gross Domestic Product, the largest private sector contribution.

Manufacturing, however, is not immune to the state’s skill mismatch problems, Hardy explained. In addition to workforce shortage issues, the industry also faces uncertainty in the international trade system and high infrastructure, raw materials, tax, housing and childcare costs.

Several job skills training programs exist in the state to address these issues and help Minnesota’s manufacturing sector prosper.

DEED itself has seventy workforce development programs in partnership with local workforce boards and Minnesota non-profit agencies. Such initiatives include the Job Skills Partnership Program, which has awarded over $41M in grants since 2011, training over 48,000 workers. Locally, Rochester Community and Technical College and Schmidt Printing utilized $227,000 from this program to train 180 workers.

In 2016, DEED assisted over one hundred business expansions in the state using the Job Creation and Minnesota Investment Funds, creating over 6,000 new jobs and $2B in private investment. These efforts included a $2M expansion at Pace Electronics in Rochester.

“In order to ensure that Minnesotans have access to an economy that works, we need to continue to invest in our high performing sectors, especially manufacturing. And we need to see the challenges ahead, plan for them, and then act. We can’t wait,” Hardy concluded.