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[Star Tribune] Minnesota has competitive edge in China’s emerging market

Nestled on the fourth floor of a gleaming office tower here is the home base of Ning Shao, Minnesota’s man in China. There is an American-style Starbucks in the lobby and American-style competition from a half-dozen of the representatives of 40 other states all looking to grab a piece of China’s massive market.

China’s economy may be slowing, but its rate of growth is still far faster than that of the United States, making it a powerful draw for companies.

Shao, who opened Minnesota’s Shanghai office last year after Gov. Mark Dayton led a trade mission here, estimates that at least 100 substantial Minnesota firms are jockeying for business in what is now the world’s second-largest economy. That includes everything from food giants Cargill and General Mills to Lake Region Medical, which sells medical guide wires in China.

Despite its rapid urbanization and the economic miracle of the past two decades, China remains a traditional culture that values relationships. Minnesota’s long history there gives the state an edge.

The last five Minnesota governors have led trade missions to China, starting with Perpich, who pitched the idea of building a chopstick factory in northern Minnesota. While the chopsticks went for naught, the China market took off.

Shao said many of the Minnesota connections to China began as student exchanges. The University of Minnesota has an estimated 8,000 Chinese alumni, dating to 1914. That’s when its first Chinese students, brothers Pan Wen Huen and Pan Wen Ping, enrolled and starred on the U’s championship soccer team. University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler toured China last month to mark the coming centennial of that enrollment milestone.

The future looks even brighter. Today the university hosts some 2,500 students and 500 professors and researchers from China. They not only bring tuition revenue, but they make up one of the largest concentrations of Chinese academics in the United States.

“It’s such a massive market, even if a company gets one contract, it can mean significant sales,” said Katie Clark Sieben, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.[Read More]

unsession

[KARE 11] Dayton asks Minnesotans for ideas to make state better

Governor Mark Dayton is asking Minnesotans for their ideas to make state government better, faster, and simpler.

At more than a dozen state agency booths across the State Fair, fair-goers will be able to find more information about Governor Dayton's 'Unsession' Agenda, and have an opportunity to provide their suggestions to the Governor.

"My request of Minnesotans is simple: send me your Unsession suggestions," said Governor Dayton in a written release. "Send big ideas that could revolutionize how state government operates, or commonsense changes that would eliminate headaches for Minnesotans. I invite every Minnesotan to join in building a better state government that better serves you."

Suggestion boxes will be set up at each state agency booth, and Minnesotans will also be able to submit their Unsession ideas online over the next several weeks. The Governor is asking specifically for ideas for the upcoming 2014 Legislative Session.

The Unsession, proposed by Governor Dayton, will focus on eliminating unnecessary or redundant laws, rules, and regulations, and getting rid of anything else that makes state government nearly impossible for people to understand. [Read More

[MPR] New law helps struggling homeowners challenge foreclosure

Statewide, there were 6,795 foreclosures in the first two quarters of 2013, a drop of 29 percent from the same period in 2012. The Twin Cities metro area saw a decline of 33 percent. Fewer Minnesota homeowners are struggling with mortgage payments than at any time since 2006.

Although the situation is improving, foreclosures are still running about three times above their average rate, and plenty of homeowners are still struggling. But provisions of a new state law that took effect this month allow them to stop foreclosure if the process is not being properly conducted.

Sometimes a homeowner behind on a mortgage isn't offered available loan restructuring options. Sometimes they're lost in the shuffle, trying to restructure a loan with one person at a bank only to have another person at the same bank pressing ahead with a foreclosure. The new Minnesota law gives new power to borrowers caught up in those situations.

"It filled an important gap that was really missing and we hope that it will really make a difference in peoples' lives," said Ron Elwood, supervising attorney at the Legal Services Advocacy Project.

Elwood, who helped write the law, said homeowners in Minnesota who are facing foreclosure now have a legal right to challenge the action. The only other state to offer borrowers such protections is California. He said the new law is an example of legislation catching up with common sense. [Read More]

 

August 26, 2013  |  News Alerts

[Star Tribune] State pushes to improve Minnesota's can-recycling rates

Determined to get more Minnesotans to recycle, the Minnesota Legislature required the MPCA to draft a plan last spring showing how a new return-deposit program could double aluminum recycling rates to 80 percent.

The agency is also sending its own strong message at this year’s Minnesota State Fair with an exhibit of 12,000 cans purchased from the Rexam Beverage Can factory in St. Paul. The hulking display of recycled cans serves as a reminder that consumers should look for recycling containers instead of trash cans.

“An education program like Minnesota’s, we think it is very valuable,” said Charles Johnson, policy vice president of the Aluminum Association in Arlington, Va. “There is a profound lack of knowledge among consumers when it comes to the recycling stream process and the value of the material that is being land filled.”

The MPCA is also distributing 480 giant bottle-shaped collection containers to local high schools and is sponsoring Minnesota GreenCorps to spread the word that recycled aluminum cuts energy costs and spurs jobs.

The latest efforts are sorely needed, because Minnesota is behind the times, said Greg Brooke, the U.S. spokesman for the London-based Rexam. The company makes billions of aluminum cans for Coke, Pepsi, Dr Pepper and breweries across the United States. Its St. Paul factory alone makes 2.1 billion cans each year. [Read More

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[Star Tribune] Team effort involved in attracting Shutterfly, new jobs to Shakopee

With manufacturing operations already established on both coasts, executives at the fast-growing Internet company Shutterfly Inc. decided that a Midwestern hub was needed to distribute its popular personalized photo books, calendar and cards.

But when the pin was ultimately stuck on a map by the $640 million Redwood City, Calif.-based firm, the city of Shakopee emerged the victor. On Sept. 10, ground will be broken to make way for Shutterfly’s new $60 million facility in the Dean Lakes business park.

Why, exactly, Shutterfly chose the south-metro suburb with about 38,000 residents is a bit unclear. Shutterfly executives last week declined to discuss the corporate machinations behind their decision.

What is clear is that a consortium of interested public and private parties — including Gov. Mark Dayton, who flew to California in July with a small entourage to meet with Housenbold — joined together with the sole purpose of landing the deal.

The project is expected to generate 329 full-time jobs in the next five years with an average annual wage of about $41,000. An additional 400 to 700 part-time workers will be hired during the busy holiday season. “If a stay-at-home mom wants to make a little extra money for Christmas, this is the perfect job,” Tabke said.

State support also came when Dayton secretly flew to Shutterfly’s Silicon Valley headquarters in late July to discuss a possible move to Minnesota with Housenbold, who is described by analysts as a hard-charging Harvard MBA who cut his career teeth at eBay.

“I heard [Housenbold] was blown away when he asked Dayton where he was going next, and Dayton said, ‘I’m going home,’ ” Hankinson said. The chief executive apparently thought Dayton’s sojourn would include recruiting other companies on the West Coast.

Earlier this month, the governor said, “I think [the trip] nudged it forward but I’m not claiming credit for it. The credit goes to the local officials and development people at Shakopee and at DEED.”

Others say Dayton’s trip was simply the icing on a process that began in earnest about six months ago. [Read More]


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