Friday, January 27, 2012

Minnesota is three things...

"I like to say Minnesota is three things: timber, taconite, and tourism." - Rep. Chip Cravaack

In his Thursday op-ed in the Duluth News Tribune, Rep. Chip Cravaack demonstrated exactly why his economic vision for Minnesota and the 8th District is so stunted and impoverished. By any measure, timber, taconite and tourism are relatively small components of Minnesota's economy.

Consider the number of people employed in each sector. Tourism can claim the largest share of employment in these three sectors - 235,000 jobs, 11% of total private sector employment in Minnesota. In comparison, the number of logging and mining jobs are very small. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2011 6,100 people were employed in Minnesota logging and mining jobs, out of a total of 2.7 million Minnesotans in the workforce. That's .23% of all jobs in Minnesota. You could triple the number of logging and mining jobs and they would still be less than 1% of the jobs in Minnesota. If Cravaack's vision of the economy were in line with reality, he would know that the real engines of economic growth in Minnesota are education, health care, financial services, manufacturing, etc.

Perhaps I should give Cravaack some leeway, some creative license, but when the first line of your piece is so wrong it's impossible to ignore.

Minnesotans (and Americans generally) are uncomfortable with the notion that we live in an information and service based economy. It's not very tangible, and certainly feels less solid than felling trees or digging ore. But the economy that Cravaack envisions is a 1950's economy that doesn't exist anymore. We do ourselves a disservice if we can't recognize that reality.

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