Long before corn and soybeans dominated Minnesota’s countryside, its fertile land provided a way of living for newly arrived Scandinavians, Irish and Germans in small-scale farming. More than 150 years later, more small growers are using the land again as an income stream.
Minnesota 2020’s latest report, Made in Minnesota 2011: Fertile Ground for Minority Opportunity, estimates that farmers’ markets contribute a net economic impact of $64 million to the state’s economy. Community supported agriculture (CSAs) contribute $10.5 million.
The report also shows that more recently, Minnesota’s Scandinavians have been joined by Hmong, Somali and Hispanic people. While small-scale farming and Minnesota’s larger food processing industry provides many new immigrants workforce entry, entrepreneurial opportunities are growing for these populations away from fields and factories. Some have set up retail shops, selling food and clothing.
As a result of this activity and population growth, Minnesota’s ethnic and immigrant communities contribute more than $12 billion to the state’s overall business activity.
Minnesota is home to more than 11,000 Asian-owned firms, which generate $2.4 billion in revenue and employ nearly 17,500 workers, according to Concordia University’s Bruce Corrie, whose research MN2020’s report cites. Minnesota’s Somalis have between $164 million and $394 million in group purchasing power, estimates the African Development Center (ADC). The state’s Latino entrepreneurs have the nation’s second highest rate of business revenue growth.
These entrepreneurs are also filling their growing communities’ needs. While the total seven-county metro areas’ population increased about 8 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to the latest U.S. Census figures, immigrant populations soared.
The number of metro area Hispanics grew by 74 percent, the Asian population rose 44 percent and Black/African American residents (which includes Somali) enlarged by 45 percent. Such growth was characteristic of all seven counties, not just Ramsey and Hennepin.
To capitalize on this population growth’s potential for all Minnesota entrepreneurs:
- The Minnesota Legislature should invest in expanding the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and its Small Business Development Centers. Greater cultural awareness and expertise would help with outreach and training for aspiring ethnic entrepreneurs.
- Minnesota’s Office of Tourism should develop a brochure guiding travelers who want to explore the state’s international cultural venues and markets, similar to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Minnesota Grown directory.
- The state should invest in identifying and building farm-to-table opportunities for all small- and medium-scale farmers and ethnic growers to serve changing Minnesota demographics and buy local supporters.
Support for this report is provided by grants from The Saint Paul Foundation, an affiliate of Minnesota Philanthropy Partners, and the Blandin Foundation. The Saint Paul Foundation’s mission is to mobilize resources and be a catalyst to enrich lives and communities. The Blandin Foundation’s mission is to strengthen rural Minnesota communities, especially the Grand Rapids area.