Gov. Tim Walz spoke on Minnesota’s strengths, challenges and its future during a Nov. 19 luncheon hosted by the MetroNorth and Twin North chambers of commerce at the National Sports Center in Blaine.

Walz began by talking about a trade mission he took with the Midwestern Governors Association where he learned about Japanese and Korean interest in the region.

“Japan and Korea are looking for places to invest, and there’s a renewed interest in the Midwest,” Walz said. “A lot of it has to do with, I think, the work ethic, with opportunities, with costs, but also with partners that share the values of corporate

responsibility.”

He went on to praise the state for being one of the happiest states in the country and having a high workforce participation rate — only Iowa and Washington D.C. have higher rates according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics — though he noted that there is a racial discrepancy to those statistics.

“One of the things that I’m keenly aware of is a lot of those statistics apply if you’re white,” Walz said. “They do not apply if you are a person of color.”

He pointed out that race and zip code can affect those outcomes. One example was that American Indian children and children of color were twice as likely to die before their first birthday.

“Those are both moral failures, and they are economic failures in the long run, holding us back,” Walz said.

Later on Walz was asked about transportation priorities in the upcoming bonding year. Walz said he wanted to take another swing at creating sustainable long-term funding to fix the $18.6 billion backlog in infrastructure maintenance in the state.

“It behooves us to have the most connected state we can because that’s when ideas start to flow really quickly,” Walz said.

He said he was committed to a statewide infrastructure bonding package that also strengthens the state’s credit rating while maintaining current capital projects and looking to the future.

On workforce, Walz argued the best investment is in education. He focused on the racial achievement gaps and breaking the school-to-prison pipeline. He also wants to realign some workforce development programs under DEED to better serve businesses.

When questions about the increasing cost of energy were raised Walz argued that the transition to renewable energy isn’t the only driver. The aging distribution network is also pushing up costs. He pointed out that electricity generated bleeds off of power lines. Approximately 5% of electricity generated in 2017 in the state was lost, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

He also affirmed a dedication to keeping the state transitioning to renewable energy and maintaining a broad portfolio on energy. Walz added he believed that American ingenuity will continue to develop new technologies for combating climate change, paraphrasing the movie “The Martian” saying we’ll science our way out of it.

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