Made in Minnesota 2010: Strategies for growing sustainable small businesses


When you “buy local” from Minnesota-based entrepreneurs and neighborhood retailers, there’s a better than even chance you are helping Minnesota’s environment as well as the local economy. 

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In the months leading up to our fourth annual Made in Minnesota report – a yearly look at the economic benefits of buying from local manufacturers and retailers – Minnesota 2020 conducted an informational sustainability survey using the firms highlighted in our online Gift Guide.

Macalester College undergraduate research fellows who carried out the survey found that many of the businesses consciously follow strategies that make their operations, products and services more “green.”

Fellows Natalie Camplair, Elizabeth Nelson and Mina Bakhtiar found, in some cases, local firm owners and managers simply did things that can be called sustainable even though it wasn’t necessarily part of a structured company policy. In other cases, local firms purposely studied everything from access to materials to manufacturing techniques to be as sustainable as policy. Most firms in the Minnesota 2020 Gift Guide fell somewhere in between.

Looking back at previous year’s Made in Minnesota reports, we knew that there are economic benefits from buying local and supporting local businesses because it keeps more of the consumer’s dollars close to home. Far less is known about how these same firms impact the area and state environment.

This year’s report identifies that there are benefits for both the economy and the environment when enlightened consumers make sustainable choices. It provides strategies for small businesses to grow sustainably. It also reveals areas where serious business and academic study is still needed.