In the past year, the economy didn't rebound with as much bounce as anyone would have liked, but a few fascinating things are happening on the way to recovery: the Twin Cities business community seems to be getting closer, more creative, and in some ways, more relaxed. The past year has seemed less like a slog and more like a fresh start.
In covering the innovation and jobs beat for The Line, I've spoken to dozens of entrepreneurs, some CEOs of large firms, and quite a few non-profit folks, and the trends are the same across every sector. The recession delivered a blow, certainly, but rather than going right back to business-as-usual, many companies here are seeing success through different measures. They brag about flex time for employees, community-based projects, and buying locally. It's as if the economic storms brought many enterprises under the same roof, and now they've learned that rather than survive independently, they're better off thriving together.
An Incubator Boomlet
For example, look toward the business incubator boomlet, and the wealth of services for entrepreneurs, like CoCo
, MOJO Minnesota
, the Economic Gardening Network
, Homegrown Business Development Center
, Minnesota High Tech Association
, and so many others. The University of Minnesota
, in particular, is a powerhouse of advice and skill building. Even the engineering school is teaching its students
how to play well together in a business setting.
This level of closeness to each other has created a business community that supports new endeavors so enthusiastically. Look at our recent feature on Kindred Kitchen
, an effort in North Minneapolis that supports food entrepreneurs, for just one example, but there are many others. A sampling of companies that got their start this year include Sophia
, and CRAM
Through strategic hiring and expansion of services and products, many companies are showing a sense of starting anew, even if they've been around for years. For instance, just look at Bulk Reef Supply
, an aquarium supplies service that has done such tremendous growth through increased product offerings that it landed on the Inc. 5000 list.
Finally, there's the relaxation factor. Business can always be a bit of a meat grinder at times, but as companies learned to operate lean and get creative, they started to identify different measures of success, like happiness. As Chris Trifilio, co-founder of Primordial Soup
noted, "We don't want to be a 50-person firm. We want to keep going down the path we're on, because it's fun and we love it." That's a sentiment that I heard often this year, leading me to believe that if a company didn't start fresh in terms of operations, then maybe they did in terms of attitude.
In the year ahead, I predict that these trends will keep rolling strong, because they contribute to the health of the business community, and make the Twin Cities a strong and vital area. Happy, satisfied entrepreneurs and business owners are creating a business climate that's sweeping away the economic clouds of the recent past with something awfully close to a sunny outlook.
Elizabeth Millard, Innovation and Jobs Editor