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Worker shortage worries drive Twin Cities recruitment push

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Office workers in downtown Minneapolis
Downtown Minneapolis workers inside the IDS Center on Oct. 12, 2015.
Russell Barnes | MPR News

Concerned about a worker shortage that could top 100,000 in five years, Twin Cities business leaders on Tuesday launched a new effort to bring top talent to the region and keep it here.

"We're not going to have enough talent in the next 10 years and beyond to meet all the growth potential our companies have," Michael Langley, president of the nonprofit economic development organization Greater MSP told reporters as the group kicked off its "Make It. MSP" campaign, an initiative involving about 50 business and organizations hoping to rev up the growth of the state's workforce.

The effort will focus on using Facebook, LinkedIn and other digital media and networking to reach people who could be wooed to or back to Minnesota.

Worker population gap
The gap between the 3-17 and 50-64 age groups as a percentage of the working-age population for each state.
U.S. Census Bureau; calculations by The Conference Board

In the 1990s, Minnesota's workforce was growing at a healthy clip of 40,000 people a year. But it's been growing at about a fifth of that lately and will slow even more, as baby boomers age and retire. Many regions across the country will see their workforces shrink. Others, like Colorado, will see strong growth, in part because they'll draw young people from other states.

This means there'll be increasing competition for talented employees, so Minnesota must attract more people from other states and countries, increase employment among minority groups and do a better job of keeping Minnesotans from being wooed elsewhere, Langley said.

Greater MSP says Minnesota has struggled to attract people to the state but if they come here, they tend to stay.

The old stereotype of life in Minnesota is still a factor when trying to recruit talent for local jobs, said Ecolab CEO Doug Baker, who helped kick off the campaign Tuesday.

"Historically, weather has colored a lot of the conversation," he said. "So, what we need to do is a much better job talking about the complete dynamics of the region and not be defined by the latest blizzard."

Net loss of young adults
State officials estimate Minnesota has a net loss annually of roughly 9,300 adults under 25 years old to other states, including students who have attended college in Minnesota. Here, University of Minnesota students and workers walked through the Minneapolis campus on Oct. 12, 2015.
Russell Barnes | MPR News

Whether more marketing will work, experts agree Minnesota has a problem: Workforce growth is expected to be weak through the next decade. State officials estimate Minnesota is suffering a net loss annually of roughly 9,000 adults under the age of 25 to other states.

"We're facing a pretty prolonged time period in which employers are going to have a much more difficult time expanding, filling vacancies that occur as their employees leave or retire," said Steve Hine, an economist with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Workers, though, will be more valued and that should mean better pay and benefits, and brighter futures for college grads, Hine added.