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Focus Areas

Affordable Housing

Call it a prairie-bred sense of community, Scandinavian-style egalitarianism, or simple fairness, but people in the Twin Cities tend to believe that income should not be destiny--that everybody deserves equal access to the good things in life, including comfortable and attractive housing, regardless of the number of zeroes on their paychecks. The realities of development can make this goal a complicated one to achieve, but the sheer number of organizations and individuals working toward it here make it a live issue whenever residential development happens here.read on…

Arts and Culture

It's actually kind of fun to amaze coastal dwellers who hold to the myth of Flyover Country with the richness and variety of the arts in this chilly metropolis between the prairie and the woods. Our artistic scene, which some call an "ecosystem," is, in fact, more diverse than most. While many regional cities claim big institutions--ballet companies, major museums, theaters for Broadway touring shows--and many have small galleries, tiny black-box theaters, and grass-roots arts organizations--our towns have art on these levels plus a third, intermediate level: the big but not overgrown arts organization, often dedicated to helping artists develop their careers as well as make their art. Combine this with an envied tradition of corporate and foundation arts funding, and you see why many artists fly into, not over, metro Minnesota.read on…

Central Corridor

As planning and building of the  light-rail line that will link Minneapolis and Saint Paul along University Avenue goes forward, a whole range of issues are arising that call upon vision, ingenuity, and a sense of fairness for solutions. How can the construction proceed with minimal disruption to the many businesses along the route? How can stations spur further development, and of what type and density should it be? How will light rail alter the demographics and dynamics of the communities through which it passes? Answering these questions is an entrepreneurial, urbanistic, design, and political challenge that will keep the Cities busy for years to come.read on…


Creative Economy

The creative economy is fueled not by coal and oil, capital and machinery, but primarily by ideas. Its driver is often the entrepreneur who has come up with a new way of thinking and whose primary resource is his or her creativity--although a corporation can lead in the creative economy too, if its work is mainly based on ideas and information. In creative economy sectors, in which the Twin Cities abound, the greatest asset a corporation can have isn't something physical like coal mines or even software, but it employees. It's their talent and smarts that make enterprises go, and cities flourish.read on…

Creative Leadership

From the innovative computer builders who made the Twin Cities a mainframe headquarters a generation ago to the visionary companies whose philanthropy has enriched our art scene, from medical-tech pioneers and nonprofit innovators to advertisers who broke the Madison Avenue mold, the Twin Cities has gone beyond business as usual time and again, led by people determined to rethink our business, economic,technological, and social relationships--always with an eye to the common good as well as the bottom line. And they're still at it, in boardrooms, classrooms, stores, labs, and studios across the length and breadth of our cities.read on…

Design

The Twin Cities design community is every bit as diverse, skilled, and distinguished as its artistic community. Our architectural heritage stretches back to Cass Gilbert and keeps producing innovative and iconoclastic builders, from Ralph Rapson to Sarah Susanka. Graphic design, on its own and allied with our legendary advertising community, has given our towns a whole range of sophisticated visual identities, from large ad campaigns to extremely cool band posters. Web design is currently building on that graphic legacy and taking it in amazing new directions. And a rich heritage of crafts, including distinguished pottery traditions, has made the Twin Cities a national center of the practical arts.read on…

Diversity

Although there are probably people who still think of the Twin Cities as 99 percent Scandinavian, we've been an ethnic mosaic since the days of the Native/white mixed-race fur traders and merchants who first owned land here. Our earliest diversity was European--Germans, Eastern Europeans, and Irish made as big a contribution here as the Swedes and Norwegians. The foundations of our Jewish, Arab, African-American and Asian communities were laid in the 19th century, and in the 20th we welcomed  immigrants from around the world, particularly refugees from war: Vietnamese, Hmong, Cambodians, Ethiopians, Oromo, Eritreans, Somalis, Liberians. Mexicans and other Latin Americans are bringing new energy to our neighborhoods, to retail and the professions, as are West Africans, Indians, Pakistanis, and many others. read on…

Emerging Technology

The new technologies that have been emerging in the last few decades dazzle the mind with their variety and complexity--everything from genetic engineering to robotics, nanotech to artificial intelligence, hydrogen-economy research to quantum computing. The Twin Cities are supplied with two key elements that favor the development of new tech: large and distinguished institutions of higher learning with well-equipped research facilities, and eager young tech entrepreneurs ready to start a business on a dime. While opinions differ radically on where the local emergent-tech scene is and where it's going, nobody doubts the depth of talent here and the wealth of opportunities to develop it.read on…

Energy

The forward-looking energy picture in the Twin Cities is complex: while it includes the glamor Greenery-- energy from wind, waves, and other renewables--it's also about retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency and lower cost, conserving energy in small but telling ways in corporate and home settings, and continuing to develop energy sources that are cleaner, if not officially Green, like natural gas; and innovations to make our old energy standbys like petroleum more efficient and user-friendly.read on…

Entrepreneurship

When a few twentysomething lumbermen from Maine realized that they could use Saint Anthony Falls to power sawmills, Minneapolis was born--born, basically, on an entrepreneurial impulse. A young freight forwarder in Saint Paul came up with a better way to get cargo from steamboats into warehouses, then onto trains, and in a few years James J. Hill was building one of the great railroad empires. Bright ideas have continued turning into big enterprises here, from Cray Research and Medtronic to Geek Squad and beyond.read on…

Green Jobs

Green products and services, renewable energy, and environmental conservation--three job zones not always easy to define, but set to take off as savvy cities move step by step toward an economy less based on fossil fuels and more connected to the wind, the waves, the sun. Twin Cities innovators in technology and business are busy creating parts of the mosaic--a green roof, an LEED-certified office building or factory, a new system to handle waste, a product created with a minimal carbon footprint--that will one day add up to a new image of what it means to live, work, and do business on earth. In the process they are creating new ways for people to make a living that enhances life on the planet.read on…

Life Sciences

The study of life is important to us. Our  heritage of engagement with the land and with natural process expresses itself in the research and development that goes on at the University of Minnesota's Saint Paul ag campus and many other institutions of higher learning, as well as at agribusiness giants like Cargill. The flourishing biotech industry in the the Twin Cities had rather humble, even grim, beginnings--artificial limb companies that catered to  sawmill workers missing an arm or leg. It was a long way from wooden legs to Medtronic and the other companies that have put our towns on the biomed map; the distinguished University of Minnesota medical school and life sciences departments and, of course, the proximity of the Mayo Clinic, helped the evolution along even as these institutions made their own discoveries and advances.read on…

Philanthropy

Our towns are nationally famous for the monetary contributions that corporations, foundations, and individuals make to the common good. Our museums and arts organizations large and small, our many and diverse social service nonprofits, think tanks, colleges, universities, and charities--all have benefited from a philanthropic largesse that grows out of a spirit of service. Our large foundations have a national reach, while corporate giants like Target and Medtronic supply a great deal of the material basis of our well-known art scene.read on…

Regionalism

Unlike, say, New York City, the Twin Cities metropolis has been tied to the areas outside and beyond it ever since the days that the city milled the wheat of the region's farms. Despite perennial outstate-metro rivalries and battles, Minnesota coheres, and an increasing number of thinkers in politics and planning realize that the various regions of the state will only thrive in communion with one another and with the big and dynamic cities on the MIssissippi. Those two cities, too, have come to realize, after years of jealously held separate identities, that they constitute one urban fabric in two colors.read on…

Reuse / Rebuild

Just because a space has been abandoned or is underutilized doesn't mean it is no longer useful. Entrepreneurs, artists, city officials, activists and neighbors, with the right amount of ambition and innovation, can take vacant or moribund spaces and turn them into opportunities. By transforming what we already have into sustainable properties, we revitalize neighborhoods and stimulate local economies. Twin Cities developers and entrepreneurs are rebirthing properties in south Minneapolis, along the Central Corridor in Saint Paul, and elsewhere in the metro--often creating stylish and edgy new businesses and living spaces in the process.
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Strong Local Economy

The Twin Cities didn't suffer as intense a roller-coaster ride from early-twentieth-century prosperity to mid-century decline and late-century struggle-to-recover as many former heavy-industrial cities, mostly thanks to the diversity of our economic base, the health of the major companies that make their homes here, and an entrepreneurial brio that has kept new companies coming. But there have been major ups and downs, including the Great Recession, and there are still areas in our towns that don't share in the general prosperity. Luckily, our governmental bodies, colleges, and think tanks teem with experts in keeping local economies strong, and our neighborhood consciousness emphasizes the local--all of which helps make sure that for every chain store that opens in a mall, a handful of small, promising hyperlocal businesses sprout as well.read on…

Talent Dividend

The Talent Dividend is a calculation of how much economic impact college grads have on a city. By increasing the number of college graduates in the Twin Cities by one percentage point of our population, $2.4 billion would be generated in personal incomes, or revenue. That's like attracting a billion dollar company to this region. The best way to measure the economic success of a city is per capita income and the simple most direct connection of per capita income is college attainment, says CEOs for Cities, the group that created the Talent Dividend initiative.

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Transit Oriented Development

With the inauguration of the Hiawatha Line light rail in 2004, the Twin Cities, which once had an extensive street railway system, returned to the fold. Today some of the best and brightest local urbanists, planners, and leaders are solidly on the side of letting the transit hubs and corridors lead the way in development. The Central Corridor extension of the line into Saint Paul is an opportunity for a whole range of for-profit and nonprofit corporations and other concerned  organizations to find ways to both mitigate the disruption that construction will cause and turn the Corridor itself into a place where development benefits everybody.read on…
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