Tim Walz

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.”