Minnesota ranks 47th in the country in terms of racial integration and 44th for progress in addressing this issue. These stats are exactly what new Commissioner of Employment & Economic Development of Minnesota Steve Grove is trying to remedy. Grove is a Minnesota native turned Google News Lab director who recently returned to Minnesota to work alongside Governor Walz in this mission.
“The biggest thing right now [for this role] is that we’re in the middle of a budget legislation, meaning we’re working through the House and the Senate a variety of packages [Governor Walz] has gathered to help grow our economy and put MN on the cutting edge of where economic growth is happening in the country,” explained Grove. “A lot of my job right now is working with legislators and other leaders and advocating for ideas that we think are going to put MN on the map as a great place to work and build a company.”
Grove points to Minnesota’s major opportunity gap as something that needs to be addressed to help grow the economy. He is involved in creating programs and infrastructure that aid underprivileged citizens in achieving economic stability. In fact, he co-founded a non-profit organization that serves underprivileged Minnesota youth along with his wife, Mary Grove.
“[Silicon North Stars] is a nonprofit Mary and I started about 5 years ago through the lens of getting young people opportunities to pursue a career in technology,” Grove said. “We bring these students to Silicon Valley and they get the opportunity to visit tech companies and think up startup ideas. Then they pitch those startup ideas to venture capitalists and tech companies. It’s a great way to learn about entrepreneurship and technology. Every week, every month after that we take them to different startups here in MN to give them access to resources here. It’s all about building role models for these kids. Tech jobs pay more, they have greater possibility so it’s all about closing the gap in the field of tech jobs.”
He is particularly interested in growing the tech sector here and believes it is what will create lasting economic prosperity.
“I think that it’s really important that MN attracts and retains a great tech ecosystem here in our state. Part of the reason is that tech jobs are the jobs of the future, they’re also jobs that create a lot of other jobs around them. Research shows that for every two jobs created in the innovation sector five other jobs are created around it. They have a great multiplier effect on growing the economy.”
Not only is Grove ambitious but is helping to create policy that reflects this optimism. He points to the “startup ecosystem” as something we need to foster in our state. This Silicon Valley-esque innovation is key to the creation of of startups and new companies.
“[One method] is to grow the startup ecosystem so it’s easier to start a small company that leverages tech to do something new and big. We’ve got a series of packages put together called the ‘Minnesota Innovation Collaborative.’ It makes becoming an entrepreneurs and starting a company a lot easier to do.”
In order to achieve this, he is working with Governor Walz to create practical ways to fuel the economy.
“For example, there’s a package that’s part of the MN innovation collaboration that provides free health insurance to someone who leaves a company to start a new company to that they’re not giving up insurance to pursue their big dream,” said Grove. “Another idea is to create classes and educational resources to help startups understand how to start a business or how to pitch to venture capitalists your idea. A lot of people have good ideas but actually starting a business and pitching to lenders is hard. We’re putting funding into creating educational opportunities to help entrepreneurs learn how to do that more effectively. We’ve got a lot of opportunities to do big things.”