Rybak: Grow at home, compete worldwide

Think locally. Think globally.

To make it through the current economic climate, Mayor R.T. Rybak wants Minneapolis to do both.

In his annual state of the city address, delivered this morning, Rybak outlined his wide-ranging goals. He split them into four parts: investing in people, building a homegrown economy, competing worldwide and create a breeding ground for innovation.

“The old ways have literally run out of gas,” he said. “… We have to not just recover; we have to rebuild. We have to reinvent.”

No. 1 in that, he said, is investing in people and jobs. But he spent much of his time talking up the city’s homegrown efforts, such as Homegrown Minneapolis, a plan to support more local food growth, sales and consumption. He also described a “homegrown economy” where local entrepreneurs launch businesses here and help keep them here. He cited such companies as Target and Best Buy, both of which have gone international but remain headquartered in the Twin Cities.

“We haven’t waited for others to deliver opportunity,” he said. “Minneapolis builds opportunity in Minneapolis.”

In the global sense, Rybak said, Minneapolis already is lagging. Despite the Target and Best Buy presences, the city hasn’t been marketing itself strongly enough internationally, he said. By comparison, Austin, Texas has employees spread out over seven countries to seek more business opportunities. Minneapolis doesn’t do that.

“It’s time that we stepped up to take a more central role on the global stage,” Rybak said.

On the personal front, the mayor said he himself will be going to Beijing in May to speak at the International Forum on Development of High-Tech Enterprises. There, he said, he’ll work to make connections to help market Minneapolis as an international destination.

“We can’t catch up” on the global market “overnight — not in this economic climate — but we can look for strategic ways to assert ourselves,” Rybak said.

Numbers played a key role in his speech, numbers ranging from six — as in six loans worth $1.8 million that the city is financing for development projects — to 10,000 — that’s how many low-income workers the city has helped get jobs since 2002 — to 1 billion — how many dollars health-care companies have invested in Minneapolis.

The site of the speech, the newly-finished North American headquarters for medical-product provider Coloplast, also became part of his arguments. The $3.5 million building, he said, will play an important part in battling the North Side’s challenges.

“It would be an enormous mistake to use these tough times as a reason to retrench, to do less. Doing less is not an option,” Rybak said to close this speech.