With minority communities accounting for more than half of Minnesota’s population growth over the last decade, the state’s economic future rests in Building Cross-cultural Commerce.
Rapidly expanding populations of newcomers, and their Minnesota-born children, are responsible for nearly 40 percent of business start ups in some areas of the state, according to estimations by economic development officials in several cities. While most newcomers work on the agricultural, service, and retail sectors’ front lines, new Minnesotans also prosper as entrepreneurs, middle- and senior-level business executives, and higher-value manufacturing workers.
As specific populations grow, more opportunities also arise for immigrant entrepreneurs to open shops, restaurants, even medical facilities that cater specifically to their communities’ dietary, cultural, and health needs. As has been the case throughout Minnesota’s immigration history, much of this financial success spills over to Minnesota’s wider economy. Concordia University research estimates ethnic purchasing power at $12 billion on the low end.
These folks buy houses, groceries, cars and other consumer goods from long-established Minnesota businesses. Today’s Hispanics, Hmong, and East Africans follow a long line of hardworking newcomers dating back to the Scandinavians and Germans. Each group brought its traditions and unique skills to add value to Minnesota’s economy. We’re a stronger state because of their collective contributions.
Throughout the state, the number of Somali Minnesotans has risen to 50,000 from roughly 18,000 a decade ago, with Ethiopians now numbering 14,000, triple the 2000 census data. While mostly concentrated in Minneapolis and St. Paul, more of these newcomers are calling Dakota County and Greater Minnesota home, especially around Rochester and St. Cloud.
For at least a generation, one of the nation’s largest Hmong populations provided St. Paul with ample economic development opportunities. While many Minnesota Hmong still call St. Paul home, they join other Asian Minnesotans in an outward growth pattern to the suburbs and beyond.
Minnesota is now four percent Asian, on par with nationwide totals. Led by Hmong Minnesotans, Asians comprise nearly 12 percent of Ramsey County’s population and six percent of Hennepin County’s. However, from 2000 to 2010, the metro’s Scott, Wright, Washington and Anoka counties all experienced triple digit percentage jumps in their Asian populations, fueled by Hmong and Asian Indians.
Southwest Minnesota’s Redwood County is one of the state’s fastest growing rural Hmong communities. In the 2000 Census, no one identified as Hmong. Now, 323 Hmong and 507 Asian Minnesotans call that county home. These families have helped stabilize Walnut Gove’s Main Street.
Hispanics comprise at least 10 percent of the population four rural Minnesota counties—Nobles 22.5%, Watonwan 20.9, Kandiyohi 11.2%, and Mower 10.6%. Statewide Hispanics comprise nearly five percent of the population.
Zack Avre, Chuck Green Civic Engagement Fellow, Macalester College contributed to this report