Five reasons your Food & Ag business should be in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota
Today marked the launch of the MBOLD coalition, an initiative of the GREATER MSP Partnership. MBOLD mobilizes Minnesota’s globally leading concentration of food and agriculture leadership to develop practical solutions to global challenges facing the food and ag sectors. The coalition is co-chaired by the CEO of General Mills, Jeff Harmening, and the Executive Vice President of Food & Beverage at Target, Stephanie Lundquist. MBOLD also includes the CEOs of Land O’Lakes, Schwan’s Co. and Compeer Financial, the President of the University of Minnesota and other executive leaders from Cargill, McKinsey & Co., and Ecolab, among others.
MBOLD is unique in that it is designed to be action oriented – accelerating solutions to the most complex challenges facing our food system. The coalition’s global scope and reach is made possible by a concentration of food and ag leadership in the Minneapolis Saint Paul region and the state of Minnesota that is unparalleled around the world. Read on for a snapshot of five reasons your food and agriculture business should be in MSP, and then reach out to Joel Akason, VP of Business Investment at GREATER MSP to learn more about how we can help make it happen.
1. Access the global hub for 5 of the world’s 30 largest food and ag companies
When you have 5 of the world’s 30 largest food & agriculture companies headquartered in one place it tells you a thing or two about the significance of Minnesota to the global food system. That’s right, Cargill, General Mills, Land O’Lakes, CHS, and Hormel are all headquartered in Minnesota. All five companies have been located in Minnesota for 90+ years, a testament to rich natural assets and connectivity of the region. They thrive in the region today after decades of building strong relationships with farmers in the state (both Land O’Lakes and CHS are member cooperatives) and cultivating a skilled talent-base like no other place.
2. Tap into the 3rd largest talent pool of food innovators in the U.S.
MSP is home to a large food and ag workforce with decades of knowledge and expertise cultivated over several decades. An analysis of LinkedIn professional profiles shows that there are over 43,000 people employed at food and beverage companies located in the MSP region. Employment in food and beverage manufacturing is over 17,000, an important segment of the region’s significant manufacturing workforce (the 7th largest manufacturing workforce in the U.S.).
What sets the MSP food and ag talent pool apart from other major metros is the concentration of specialized talent that has developed to drive innovation in food and ag. The Greater MSP region has the 3rd largest pool of food scientists and biomedical engineers in the U.S. Talent with these skills are driving innovation in food and ag and are demanded by employers for food production research new product development. Talent in these occupations are growing fast and leading innovations at corporate operations, in higher education laboratories, and fueling the growth of startups leveraging emerging technologies in food production and distribution.
The concentration of employment opportunities attracts talent from around the world and is fueled by a rich pipeline from regional colleges and universities. Schools producing food and ag talent include the University of Minnesota, ranked as one of the top-10 Best Universities for Agricultural Sciences by U.S. News (2019), in addition to St. Cloud State University, University of St. Thomas, and Minnesota State University-Mankato.
3. Find mentorship and capital to build your food startup
MSP is not just for hundred-year-old corporations. A vibrant startup and innovation ecosystem is thriving in the region, with support from groups like Grow North, an initiative at the University of Minnesota to accelerate and connect Minnesota’s food and ag entrepreneurs, and stage events like Food | Ag | Ideas Week. Techstars Farm to Fork Accelerator is based in Saint Paul. The accelerator is run by Techstars and has backing from Ecolab Inc. and Cargill Inc. Farm to Fork companies receive mentorship from the two food industry giants and receive seed funding. The accelerator is now hosting its third class of startups.
Accessing capital is possible when you build and grow your company in MSP. Between 2015-2019, Minnesota ranked 8th nationally in the total amount of venture capital raised by agri-food companies according to AgFunder. In these five years, Minnesota agri-food companies raised over $428M, more than that raised by agri-food companies in Texas, New Jersey, and Florida.
4. Benefit immediately from a highly developed, low-risk supply chain network
The MSP region and the state of Minnesota have been an important agricultural hub for more than 100 years. Minnesota has some of the best farmland in the nation and access to global markets via robust riverway, rail, interstate, and air connectivity. MSP and the state of Minnesota's food and ag sector have a unique strength: access to agricultural suppliers and end-markets. This heightens our food and ag sector's resilience through disruption. In addition to efficient inter-region supply linkages, Minnesota benefits from a strong export market of agricultural commodities. Minnesota is the 5th largest agricultural exporting state, a value of $6.9 billion in 2019.
5. Join with other food leaders to drive protein innovation
The innovative capacity of the Greater MSP region is on display across our sectors of strength, and it is no different for the food and ag sector. The concentration of global headquarters and research institutions in the MSP region has resulted in significant exploration and development of new technologies in the sector. One exciting innovation is in the development and commercialization of plant-based protein. The University of Minnesota is home to the Plant Protein Innovation Center, the first center of its kind in the nation to produce and study nutritious and functional plant protein ingredients and products. The center partners with major food and ag companies spanning the supply chain, including ADM, Cargill, Conagra, General Mills, Hershey, Kellogg’s, Coca-Cola, and Danone.
The MSP region is home to PURIS, the largest pea protein producer in the United States. Cargill and PURIS formed a joint venture to ramp up PURIS’ protein production, and in the last year invested an additional $75 million to construct a second facility in Dawson, MN. As the plant-based protein sector continues to gain traction globally, the MSP region will be an innovation hub, fueling new opportunities for business development, growth and success in the food and ag sector.