Viewpoint: Spirit of cooperation needed in upcoming legislative sessionTalking with, meeting with, and visiting with so many people, businesses and organizations over the interim has been so helpful to me in framing the challenges and opportunities that our Legislature will face as the 2010 legislative session convenes this week.
By: Kathy Saltzman, State Senator, Woodbury Bulletin
Talking with, meeting with, and visiting with so many people, businesses and organizations over the interim has been so helpful to me in framing the challenges and opportunities that our Legislature will face as the 2010 legislative session convenes this week.
During a time of unprecedented budget deficits, a struggling economy, and high unemployment, the ability and willingness to involve citizens in developing positive solutions to our most pressing problems and greatest untapped opportunities are key to positioning our state so as this recession ends, we are prepared for a quick recovery.
One day in particular, which both started and ended on promising and positive notes, will remind me throughout the session of how these collaborative initiatives serve both our state and community well.
Two weeks ago I joined other community members for a breakfast meeting that focused on the importance of building and strengthening collaborative partnerships. One of the first activities was to list those programs and projects that have already realized success in our community and were the result of multiple organizations and people working together. The list was impressive and included Habitat for Humanity, the Christian Cupboard, the Lions Bandshell at Ojibway Park, the Veterans Memorial, Relay for Life, the Arts Connection, and most recently, the Yellow Ribbon Network.
While our local community benefits when we find ways to bring people together to accomplish great things, at no time in recent history has it been more critical that we do the same at the state level.
Which brings me to the end of the day and my participation on a panel at the University of Minnesota sponsored by the Minnesota High Tech Association. The topic: an aggressive and collaborative initiative to reposition Minnesota as a leader in science and technology innovation. At a time when job creation and economic development is so critical to ensuring the future prosperity of our state, this initiative holds such promise.
While Minnesota has had great success in the medical device industry, we must acknowledge that our trend lines reflect the fact that we have no strategic plan for growing jobs in our most promising high technology areas. While Minnesota once led the nation in science and technology, we now rank 14th-17th in key measures of S&T leadership.
As a result, early last year, a small group of academic and private sector leaders asked me and several other legislators to discuss the concept of North Star Rising, creating a commission made up of Minnesotans from public, private and academic sectors chartered with establishing a strategy to ensure Minnesota’s leadership in the evolving and competitive world of science and technology.
Science and technology directly impact the quality of life of every individual in our state and our nation. It impacts every industry, from bioscience to manufacturing to agriculture to support services. More importantly, S&T leadership is a prime engine, arguably the prime engine, for robust, self-sustaining economic development and growth. In sharp contrast to Minnesota, other states have executed clear robust strategies to induce high technology saturation in their region, thereby solidifying their position in this sector and producing significant growth of their state’s economy.
We can and must do better.
In the final days of the 2009 session, as chief author of the bill SF1882, I worked to ensure language was included in our Omnibus Economic Development bill calling for the formation of the Minnesota Science & Technology Economic Development Project. On Jan. 15 Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development released a report that detailed the work of the committee, which included respected and recognized experts from private industry, the University of Minnesota, Mayo Clinic, and MnSCU.
The report outlines the crisis confronting Minnesota's future and puts forth an ambitious and energetic plan to bring Minnesota back to the top, nationally and globally, in the S&T sector. In its recommendations and conclusion, the project members confirm the sense of urgency and call for the Minnesota Legislature to collaborate with the private and academic sectors this session to chart a course that will steer our state toward both long and short term growth. Work has already begun on these recommendations.
A diversity of opinion is paramount to the success of any major undertaking, and our state is blessed with citizens whose views are as disparate as they are plentiful. Our problems are too great to continue to put partisanship above the common good. The spirit of cooperation and collaboration that shaped our great state must now lead it through one of its toughest challenges. I look forward to inviting that kind of discussion as we begin one of the most important legislative sessions in recent history.
Sen. Kathy Saltzman, DFL-Woodbury, represents Senate District 56, which includes Woodbury.