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Educated workforce is paying off for Minnesota: Gov. Dayton

Minnesota has the highest labor participation rate in the nation.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton
Source: Office of the Governor
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton

From our earliest farmers developing new and better ways to feed a growing world, to today's innovative and booming medical and biotechnology industries, Minnesota's continued success as a great state for residents and businesses is rooted in our constant drive to learn, innovate and grow.

Undoubtedly, Minnesota's primary competitive advantage for attracting business is in our world-class workforce, the hardworking people of Minnesota and their drive to discover. Our workers are among the best educated in the nation, with 92.6 percent earning a high school diploma, ranking fourth in the United States, and 34.3 percent having a bachelor's degree, ranking 11th in the United States.

Minnesota's highly educated workforce is not by accident; we have made a commitment to our early education, K–12 and higher-education systems, helping to create the most productive workforce in the nation. As a result, our labor-force participation rate is the highest in the nation, at 71.2 percent, easily outpacing the national rate of 62.8 percent. Businesses in the state have added more than 228,000 jobs in the last five years, and the unemployment rate is at 3.8 percent.

This commitment to education means supporting every student everywhere in Minnesota. We have made innovative investments to secure free all-day kindergarten across our state, with more than 99 percent of Minnesota kindergarteners now enrolled, and this year we have made a historic investment to offer free, high-quality pre-kindergarten learning to more Minnesota four-year-olds.

"High-quality early-learning programs help close gaps in educational achievement, ensuring that every student gets off to the best start possible."

But our work here is not done. High-quality early-learning programs help close gaps in educational achievement, ensuring that every student gets off to the best start possible. In the years ahead, growing these investments in high-quality pre-kindergarten early-learning programs will be absolutely essential to our world-class workforce and to our status as a top state for businesses and working families across our state.

Building America's 'City for Health'

From a world-class education comes an unparalleled workforce ready to innovate in Minnesota's growing economy. Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith has been at the forefront of our innovation economy as chair of the board of the Destination Medical Center Corp., an ambitious public-private partnership to grow Mayo Clinic and the city of Rochester into America's City for Health. Smith and I have also worked closely with the University of Minnesota Medical School to ensure that our world-class medical facilities and technology companies have access to the best-trained medical workforce in our nation. Together these efforts will help ensure growth and opportunity for health care, businesses and residents for decades to come.

Minnesota's economy is diverse, with expertise in many of the fields driving the global economy, like health, food and water solutions. From corporate powerhouses to start-ups, our innovative spirit is what drives us as a top spot for business.

Of course, we know that quality of life is an important component of economic development. This bodes well for Minnesota, a state that values arts, culture and our precious natural resources. Our talented, highly skilled and innovative people want to live here, and they are what make us unique.

Over the past decade, Minnesota has capitalized on what have always been our greatest strengths. Through a strategic focus on education, equipping our residents to be the world's best workforce, Minnesota businesses have had the foundation they need to innovate and grow, putting more Minnesotans to work than ever before. Minnesota's business community is thriving because we've utilized our natural assets and nurtured the big thinkers and idea generators here, in Minnesota.

— By Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton

Editor's note: This commentary was written before the release of the Top States 2016 data. The governor did not have knowledge of the rankings or the comprehensive data.