Governor Tim Walz  last week signed Executive Order 21-31, establishing the new Governor’s Council on Economic Expansion. The Council brings together 15 labor, business, philanthropic, and non-profit leaders from across the state to provide recommendations on expanding Minnesota’s economy.

“As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and look toward the future, we must take bold action to build back Minnesota’s economy stronger than before, with people—our strongest asset—at the center of the blueprint,” said Governor Walz. “The Council on Economic Expansion brings together the brightest minds in Minnesota to create a strong economic future that includes every Minnesotan. I am grateful to each of these leaders, and I look forward to their work on this Council.”

“Minnesota is home to some of the best and brightest leaders in the world,” said Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. “By working together, we can solve some of the greatest challenges facing our economy today—from ensuring access to child care and health care, to building pathways to success for every single Minnesotan.”

The Council will first identify immediate actions, potential policy changes, and recommendations to leverage remaining American Rescue Plan funding to advance equitable economic growth. The group will then focus on developing a long-term roadmap to achieve a more equitable, inclusive, sustainable, and resilient Minnesota through public, private, and nonprofit systemic change. 

The Council will be co-chaired by Jeff Ettinger, former Hormel CEO, and Paul Williams, CEO and president of Project for Pride in Living.

“I am excited to work with this multifaceted Council to offer recommendations aimed at supporting a brighter, more inclusive economic future for all Minnesotans,” said Ettinger. “Result-oriented recommendations matter to the intended beneficiaries of the programs, to taxpayers who fund these initiatives, and to all of us who believe in effective government in Minnesota.”

“We know the impact of the pandemic has fallen especially hard on communities of color and Minnesotans with low incomes,” said Williams. “Together, we can build a thriving economy that will help everyone in our state emerge stronger.”

The Council will work with state, local, and tribal governments; businesses; workers; higher education institutions; nonprofits; grassroots movements; and communities who have been disproportionately impacted by the inequitable systems of the past and by the pandemic. 

Commissioner of Employment and Economic Development Steve Grove, Commissioner of Human Services Jodi Harpstead, and Commissioner of Labor and Industry Roslyn Robertson will work closely with the Council.

“Minnesota has a tremendous opportunity in front of us to write the next chapter of our economy in a way that works for everyone,” said Commissioner Grove. “We’re grateful to this extraordinary group of leaders for giving their time to advise government to use the unprecedented resources at our disposal to make lasting change.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic led us to rethink how our economy can work to support all Minnesotans,” said Commissioner Harpstead. “This is a unique opportunity to work across public, private, and non-profit sectors to improve shared economic prosperity and emerge stronger than ever.”

“Living through a global pandemic has presented unique challenges for every Minnesotan, but also presents a prominent opportunity to emerge stronger than before with equity,” said Commissioner Robertson. “It is a priority for all of us that every voice will be represented through the work of this Council and to ensure our state’s economic expansion plans include a continued commitment to keeping our state’s workforce safe and healthy.”

The Governor today appointed the following members, who will serve terms expiring on July 1, 2022.

    • Jeff Ettinger, Former Chairman of the Board and CEO, Hormel Foods (Co-Chair)  
    • Paul Williams, President and CEO, Project for Pride in Living (Co-Chair)  
    • Scott Burns, CEO and Co-Founder, Structural 
    • Brett Carter, Executive Vice President and Chief Customer and Innovation Officer, Xcel Energy 
    • Joe Fowler, President, Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council 
    • Jodi Hubler, Vice Chair, Medical Alley Board of Directors 
    • Brenda Hilbrich, Executive Vice President, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota 
    • Neel Kashkari, President and CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis 
    • Marcus Owens, Executive Director, African American Leadership Forum 
    • Tuleah Palmer, President and CEO, Blandin Foundation 
    • Joo Hee Pomplun, Executive Director, Alliance for Metropolitan Stability 
    • Nonoko Sato, Executive Director, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits 
    • Traci Tapani, Co-President, Wyoming Machine 
    • Bharti Wahi, Executive Director, Children’s Defense Fund - Minnesota
    • Penny Wheeler, CEO, Allina Health  

"I’m honored to be serving on the Governor’s Council on Economic Expansion. Our union represents healthcare workers from every corner of our state, and our members work every day to make our state a healthier place. But they also see that we have lots of work to do, and I'm glad the Governor has brought together this group to find innovative ways to ensure Minnesota’s economic future includes all of us, no matter our race, gender, or zip code,” said Hilbrich. “While Minnesota is the best state in the country for some of us, we know that too many Minnesotans have been left out and left behind. I'm excited to dig into this work to make our state more equitable and strong so every Minnesotan – no exceptions – can live a safe, healthy, and happy life."

“I’m eager to represent Minnesota’s small businesses, manufacturing, and women in non-traditional roles. Let’s build an inclusive and sustainable future where anyone interested in manufacturing can learn and train for a rewarding, successful career,” said Tapani. “I come from a family with humble beginnings. Minnesota provided my father with an environment to start and grow a successful manufacturing company. I want Minnesota to continue to a place where people with dreams and ideas can have an opportunity at a middle-class life.”

The first meeting of the Council will be Sept. 15, 2021, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. The full meeting schedule and additional details about the Council can be found on the Council’s Website

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