James J. Hill Center Statement Regarding Current Closure

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Attracting Talent, Even When It Snows in April

Check back each month for the Original Thinker Series as we explore local innovation in entrepreneurship, the arts, and our community one pioneering mind at a time.

Minnesota is cold. There is no avoiding it. Despite the fact that we gave the world Snoopy and Post-It notes (thank you C. Schulz and 3M respectively) people outside of Minnesota still think of the weather when they think of us. And after a record snow storm in April, it is hard to blame them.

Yet we live and work here, and we enjoy it. The numbers speak to this: the Greater MSP region has a positive net migration five times higher than the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim region for example. We have developed winter-resistant companies, schools, and people who thrive through the cold.

“We are trying to bring people up to the party everyone else is having,” says Matt Lewis, Director of Make It. MSP. Matt works with the Greater MSP team – an economic development partnership for the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area – on one of their core strategies for the region: prioritizing talent. They are committed to not just attracting but retaining professionals who choose Minnesota as their home.

One of the things that stands out about Make It. MSP.’s strategy is their focus on retention. One of our region’s biggest problems when it comes to talent is retaining professionals of color. The Greater MSP region attracts professionals of color at a higher rate than it does white professionals, however, professionals of color are more likely (about 77%) to leave the region than their white counterparts.

Probing into this talent disparity and working to reverse it has become a priority for Make It. MSP. Through research partnerships with the University of St. Thomas and others they found the main reason professionals of color give for leaving is a “lack of diversity and cultural awareness” in the region.

Since realizing this, Make It. MSP. has been sharing their data with leaders in the non-profit, education, media, and private sectors. They have been forming partnerships (the backbone of their work) across industries to develop a toolkit for local employers and are testing this with a cohort through 2018.

“Our region isn’t just dominated by one strong city or county or one main industry or foundation,” says Matt. “We’re diversified.” Here we have decision makers around tables all over the region. Make It. MSP. is inviting people from their separate tables into the same room to facilitate the conversation on talent.

What makes Matt and his team original thinkers is that they are not trying to reinvent Minnesota to attract talent to our region. They are not trying to pretend it isn’t cold or that we don’t have an inclusion issue. Rather, they are trying to get us to talk to each other. “We’re trying to be true to who we are rather than something we’re not,” says Matt. “Our brand is built around the reality that people here are driven by solving problems – and they value doing that together.”

To get involved with Make It. MSP. visit their website at makeitmsp.org or email them at [email protected]


Written by Christopher Christenson, Program & Event Coordinator, at the James J. Hill Center. Have an idea of a person or organization to feature in this series? Send your recommendations to 
[email protected].


Patrons with accessibility needs please access our ground floor elevator entrance via Kellogg Ave at the back of the building. Please ring the doorbell on the right hand side of door and a Hill staff member will assist you. If you have questions or concerns please call 651.265.5500. We look forward to having you visit.