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Investing in education pays for itself: Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton

  • Minnesota has reached a record 2.5 million private-sector jobs.
  • More than 92 percent of working-age Minnesotans have a high school diploma, ranking third in the U.S.
  • The state has increased funding for education every year since Mark Dayton became governor.
  • Minnesota now offers free all-day kindergarten — with more than 99 percent of Minnesota kindergarteners now enrolled — and free, voluntary preschool.

For the first time in our history, Minnesota now has more than 2.5 million private-sector jobs. And in an era of consolidation, the number of Fortune 500 companies in Minnesota has grown from 17 to 18 in the last year, making Minnesota home to the third-most Fortune 500 companies of any state, per capita.

The success of Minnesota's economy is thanks in large part to our innovative businesses and the world-class workforce that powers them. For example, the Destination Medical Center effort in Rochester is bringing together the Mayo Clinic, private enterprise, and state and local support to grow the next generation of medical innovation here in our state, creating good jobs and great opportunities for businesses and families in Southern Minnesota.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton visits Westview Elementary School
Office of Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton visits Westview Elementary School

This continued innovation and growth is made possible by an education system that produces the highly-skilled workers our businesses need to succeed in a competitive 21st-century economy. More than 92 percent of working-age Minnesotans have a high school diploma, ranking third in the United States. Over 34 percent have a bachelor's degree, ranking Minnesota 11th in the United States. Our world-class education systems help ensure that Minnesotans will continue to drive business innovation and that working families will be able to build a good life and support local economies across our state.

Supporting a highly-educated, world-class workforce does not happen by accident. When I became Governor in January 2011, our state government faced a projected $6.2 billion budget deficit in the upcoming biennium, and more than $2 billion had been unilaterally "borrowed" from our school districts. Since then, we have worked very hard to restore Minnesota's fiscal integrity and repay our schools. We succeeded: The last eight state financial forecasts have projected budget surpluses.

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In addition to repaying our schools, I am proud to say that I have upheld a key promise since becoming governor: to increase funding for education every year, with no excuses and no exceptions. Since I became governor, we have invested nearly two billion additional dollars in our education systems. These investments have secured free all-day kindergarten across our state, with over 99 percent of Minnesota kindergarteners now enrolled; pioneered free, voluntary preschool to give Minnesota four-year-olds a better start; and made college and career training more affordable for Minnesotans.

These investments have helped to create the most productive workforce in the nation. Our labor force participation rate is the fourth highest, at 69.7 percent, far outpacing the national rate of 62.7 percent. Minnesota businesses have added over 277,500 jobs in the last six years, and our unemployment rate is at 3.8 percent. We have now seen 35 straight months of unemployment at or below 4 percent in Minnesota.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton
"To continue to support businesses, jobs and families, Minnesota is focused on what has always been our greatest strength – our world-class, highly educated workforce."

We know that working families are not only looking for good jobs, but a good quality of life, including arts, professional sports, culture, and 10,000 unique outdoors experiences. Talented, highly-skilled and innovative people want to live here, and they are what drive our success.

Minnesota has a key advantage in the diversity of our innovative economy, with global leaders in health care and medical devices, food production and distribution, and clean water solutions. But as global and national economic trends continue to shift, we must continue to innovate in Minnesota.

To continue to support businesses, jobs, and families, Minnesota is focused on what has always been our greatest strength – our world-class, highly educated workforce. By ensuring strong education systems, Minnesota businesses have the foundation they need to innovate and grow, putting more Minnesotans to work than ever before. From businesses with household names to the change-makers of tomorrow, our innovative, world-class workforce will be what continues to drive our success.

By Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton

Editor's note: This commentary was written before the release of the Top States 2017 data. The governor did not have knowledge of the rankings or the comprehensive data.

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