Year in Review: Top 10 Stories of 2017

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December 29, 2017                                                                                Bookmark and Share

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#10: Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith Fight Wage Theft

KARE 11 | February 15, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota Democrats say they want to bolster the state's ability to go after businesses that fail to fully compensate workers.

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith said during a Wednesday rally that the state needs to hold accountable a small number of businesses stealing from workers. The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry estimates that over 39,000 workers aren't paid an average of $11.9 million each year in wages, overtime and benefits.

Democrats' proposed legislation would further define wage theft, give regulators more money to investigate cases and raise penalties for businesses that have underpaid their workers.

St. Paul Rep. Tim Mahoney says the changes would help protect workers from future wage theft while aiding the investigation of over 20,000 complaints filed each year.

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Graphic: Border-to-border Broadband Grants

#9: Border-to-border Broadband Grants Help Greater Minnesota Get Connected

ST. PAUL, MN – Lt. Governor Tina Smith and the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) today announced the 2017 Border-to-Border Broadband Grant recipients. The grants total $26 million for 39 broadband infrastructure projects that will provide 9,973 households, 2,169 businesses, and 60 community institutions across Minnesota access to reliable, affordable high-speed internet. 


The funding, which comes from a combination of $20 million approved during the 2017 legislative session, plus carryover from previous grant rounds, goes to broadband providers and communities to build out wireline and fixed wireless broadband infrastructure to Greater Minnesota.  

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Graphic: Clean Energy Job growth in MN

#8: Clean Energy Jobs Continue to Grow in Minnesota

Star Tribune | October 16, 2017

As wind and solar energy have grown, they’ve created a tide of jobs nationwide in fields from construction to manufacturing. Renewable energy jobs, most of which are in wind and solar, grew by 16 percent to around 6,200 in Minnesota from 2015 to 2016, according to a recent study by Clean Energy Economy Minnesota, an industry-led nonprofit.

A wind building boom is expected to continue over the next five years. Solar should grow, too. 

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Governor Mark Dayton cuts the ribbon to open the State Capitol

#7: Minnesota State Captiol Celebrates its Grand Opening

Pioneer Press | August 11, 2017

The first major speech at the state Capitol’s grand opening Friday was delivered by a third-grader.

“I think when people come here from different countries or states they see the Capitol building, and it looks like a safe place to be and it makes them feel good about Minnesota and they hope to live here someday,” Hope Anderson said in her speech.

From Homecroft Elementary in Duluth, Hope was the winner of the Grand Opening Essay Contest for third- through fifth-graders. Her head barely rose above the lectern as she spoke.

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Lt. Governor Tina Smith at the St. Paul Women's March

#6: Lt. Governor Tina Smith Speaks at the St. Paul Women's March

Governor Mark Dayton and Supreme Court Justice Anne McKeig

#5: Minnesota Achieves Most Diverse Judiciary In State's History

Minnpost | July 21, 2017

It’s a governor’s job to appoint judges in the state of Minnesota, and when Mark Dayton took over, he noticed a pattern: most of the finalists were white guys.

It wasn’t exactly surprising to Dayton. The candidates were all qualified to be judges, and they mirrored the judiciary overall, which was mostly filled with men who had been lawyers and law clerks who had climbed up to the bench.

But Dayton also wondered: Why weren’t more qualified women and people of color making it to the final round of interviews? “When you come into a courtroom, you want to see, is there anybody who looks like me?” the governor said.

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Graphic: MN is the 3rd Best State

#4: U.S. News and World Report Name Minnesota the 3rd Best State

U.S. News and World Report | February 28, 2017

In 2015, Minnesota had the second-highest labor force participation in the U.S., with health care accounting for the largest percentage of employment. The Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit organization with hospitals and research initiatives in different locations, is headquartered in Rochester and was the state’s largest employer in 2016.

Manufacturing and retail trade are two other major industries in Minnesota, which houses many Fortune 500 companies such as UnitedHealth Group, Target, 3M and General Mills. With its headquarters in Minneapolis, Target was the fourth-largest employer in the state in 2016.

The median household income, $63,488 in 2015, was above the national average of $55,775.

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Governor Dayton Breaks Ground on the Digi Key expansion in Thief River Falls

#3: Minnesota Named A Top State For Business by CNBC

CNBC | July 11, 2017

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.

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Graphic: MN is the Best-Run State

#2: Minnesota Named the Best-Run State by 24/7 Wall Street

Star Tribune | December 11, 2017

These are good times for Minnesota. Unemployment is low. The state's credit rating is high. And the average median household income is above average. That all adds up to Minnesota being the best-run state in the nation, according to a study by the website24/7 Wall St(

The Gopher State beat out Utah for the top spot in the annual survey, which uses economic indicators, budget allocations and balance sheets as well as a range of social measures to rank how well each state is run. Ranking third through fifth were Iowa, Oregon and Washington.

Minnesota ranked as the 10th best back in 2012 and has inched up in the rankings each year, coming in at No. 1 this year after its runner-up finish in 2016.

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Graphic: Pre-K

#1: New Funding Expands Access to Pre-K for Tens of Thousands of Minnesota Kids

ST. PAUL, MN – This fall, 6,100 four-year-olds will be attending free, school-based preKindergarten programs across Minnesota, thanks to funding secured by Governor Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature since 2016. The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) today released a list of 59 school districts and charter schools that will receive new preK funding this year – programs that have significantly expanded access to high-quality early learning opportunities across the state. Additionally, Early Learning Scholarships funded by Governor Dayton and the Legislature will help 16,400 young learners attend early learning programs in Minnesota this year. In total, these funds will help 22,500 young learners across Minnesota attend early learning programs this year. 

“With new preK programs and Early Learning Scholarships, over 22,500 young learners will get the great starts they need this school year to succeed in school and life,” said Governor Dayton. “I thank the many legislators who supported these investments to combat our state’s persistent achievement gaps. However, I regret that with a $1.65 billion surplus, the Legislature would not provide the funding needed to ensure all Minnesota four-year-olds have access to these crucial learning opportunities.” 

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