I grew up in the ecosystem that Steve Grove describes in his Jan. 6 commentary, “Reboot required.” Bloomington in the 1970s was a Control Data company town. My friends’ dads (and it was mostly dads) worked there. My friends and I hung out at the Control Data Explorer post to work with the Plato system. When Lincoln High School closed because of declining enrollment, Control Data bought it for yet another expansion in Bloomington.
And Grove is spot-on about things we need to do to return to the world-leading innovation culture we enjoyed in Minnesota — with one important omission.
We also need to ensure that Minneapolis-St. Paul is a place where people want to live.
Over the past two decades, we have made important investments in our urban core for the specific purpose of creating a place that attracts and holds the innovative talent we need. Witness the North Loop in Minneapolis and Lowertown in St. Paul. Connected by transit, sprinkled with cultural and sports facilities, newly walkable and filled in with new places to live and work, these neighborhoods have become places where innovation lives.
Visionary businesses like Fueled Collective (formerly CoCo) helped condition the social environment for innovation and community-building, first in St. Paul and expanding to the Grain Exchange, Uptown and northeast Minneapolis.
Are we seeing the results? If you accept the idea that “those who want to innovate, congregate,” yes, we are. Go visit the floor of the Grain Exchange and see the dozens of companies — some technology and some not, that are growing there. Check in on the Glen Nelson Center in St. Paul, where a radio network is incubating innovation companies working content delivery with an emphasis on ideas generated by people of color. Look at how developers are building innovation centers where community is actively encouraged with the express purpose of sharing ideas.
An ecosystem needs a vessel in which it can grow. Our core cities — and more recently cities like Richfield, Bloomington and Robbinsdale — are working very hard to be places where young, talented people want to live. If we follow the path laid out in Grove’s commentary and keep investing in the things that keep people here, the Twin Cities area stands a very good chance to re-emerge as the national leader it seeks to be.
Ted Davis, St. Paul
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Grove’s formula for resumption of Minnesota’s prominence as a technology hub is commendable, but perhaps overly optimistic. The existing gap between Minnesota and numerous more advanced tech centers can only be narrowed segment by segment. Proceeding from Minnesota’s notable strength in financial technology (fintech) we can reach prominence using two of Grove’s “forces for growth” — ecosystem and education. Few states or metropolitan areas have the Twin Cities’ concentration of banks, insurance, investment and payments firms, and a Federal Reserve Bank (the ecosystem), plus significant college and university computer science training grounds (the education). Former Gov. Mark Dayton recognized this by forming a fintech advisory council of private-sector experts under the leadership of Shawntera Hardy, his commissioner of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), to begin planning Minnesota’s fintech future. As Ms. Hardy’s successor at DEED, Grove can help build a Minnesota fintech hub by supporting the advisory council’s work, and by cultivating investment in fintech by DEED and existing developers and users.
Bill Dolan, Minneapolis
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It amazes and upsets me that the article on Minnesota and technology failed to even mention ERA/UNIVAC as a leader and early spawner of numerous local tech companies, including Control Data, which was featured in the article.
Thomas Schonebaum, Fridley
Limited progress, yes, but much to celebrate, and things to fret about
The Jan. 6 article ‘Limited progress made on emissions” reports on Minnesota’s goals to reduce carbon emissions. Limited progress, yes. Yet encouraging that utilities are systematically closing coal power plants and that Xcel Energy publicly announced its goal to be carbon-free by 2050. Currently among the largest challenges remaining in Minnesota: low petro prices have encouraged the purchase of large, gas-guzzling, carbon-emitting, vehicles. Significant emission reductions will occur with a rapid transition to electric vehicles.
An impressive number of Minnesota businesses grasp the urgency. But it is going to take more than business. It is going to take decisions and actions by people. Drawing on a quote from Louis Brandeis (bit.ly/2SHAIXu), we can have a livable planet, or we can have continued reliance on the burning of fossil fuels, but we cannot have both.
Amelia Kroeger, Bloomington
MINING AND BOUNDARY WATERS
I propose a state research center
Congratulations to the writer of the Jan. 9 letter “Boundary Waters and mining: A state-owed solution.” It is indeed time for Minnesotans to come together and resolve the contentious issue of mining in proximity to the Boundary Waters. Based on the PolyMet experience, a final decision on the Twin Metals issue is likely to be a decade or so away. There are steps that can be taken to allow citizens and state government to arrive at a well-informed decision within this time frame. One option to investigate the issues involved would be to establish a state-funded research center at the University of Minnesota, modeled on the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Engineering Research Center (ERC) Program. The cost of an ERC is typically on the order of $4 million to $5 million a year for five to 10 years. This could put Minnesota at the international forefront of understanding of the issues — and all research reports would be open to the public. As has been said: “Let science decide, not politics or passion!”
Charles Fairhurst, South St. Paul
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Here are some thoughts that I think that all Americans, especially our leaders, should read, take to heart and practice in order to get things done and get our country back on track.
• “Heroes are not giant statues framed against a red sky. They are people who say, ‘This is my community and it’s my responsibility to make it better.’ ” (Tom McCall, an Oregon politician)
• “Some men have all the reasons why they cannot do what they want to, when all they need is one reason why they can.” (Willis R. Whitney, a chemist and founder of the research laboratory of the General Electric Co.)
• “I am a member of a team, I rely on the team. I defer to it and sacrifice for it, because the team, not the individual, is the ultimate champion.” (Mia Hamm, professional soccer player and Olympian)
• “To be persuasive, we must be believable. To be believable, we must be credible. To be credible, we must be truthful.” (Edward R. Murrow, journalist)
• “For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions which I once thought right but found to be otherwise.” (Benjamin Franklin)
John Sorteberg, Edina