Celebrating 20 Years Of The Twin Cities Business Community

Celebrating 20 Years Of The Twin Cities Business Community

Minnesota tops the national charts for voter turnout, most literate cities, and best park systems.

It’s funny how in the race of everyday living we can forget simple but important ideas. One often trampled upon has been worded in various ways over time:


“Study the past if you would define the future …”


“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

—George Santayana

“You have to know the past to understand the present.”

—Carl Sagan

To be reminded of this truism is probably the best part of developing our 20th anniversary edition this month. As an editorial team, we all refreshed our knowledge of (or sometimes learned for the first time) key developments in our economy’s recent history. It also helped sharpen our perspective on what’s happening today and what’s coming up, as we plan our coverage through 2013 and beyond.

Think about how the aviation industry here has changed in 20 years: Back then, we had 18,000 jobs at Northwest Airlines, which had its headquarters in Eagan and considered Minneapolis its primary hub. We were home to several thousand mechanics, pilots, and flight attendants. Today, Atlanta-based Delta, which acquired Northwest, has far fewer direct employees in our metro area, but still considers Minnesota a significant hub. Meanwhile, Sun Country Airlines has managed to remain afloat despite economic and industry pressures, not to mention its near-death experience when then-owner Tom Petters was arrested for fraud.


Our “20 Years in Twin Cities Business” package of stories beginning on page 29 looks at other industries as well, from music to retail to beverages. We really didn’t even think about that last one as an industry 20 years ago. In the last couple of decades, however, Minnesota has become a hotbed for wineries, breweries, energy-drink bottling and coffee. Caribou Coffee, which was less than a year old when TCB launched, went on to become the first significant competitor to Starbucks.

Other little startups in 1993 grew up nicely as well. The innovative Minneapolis computer repair service Geek Squad was acquired by Best Buy. Rainforest Cafe’s results were robust enough at its Mall of America location for it to become a publicly traded company. Stephen Shank had just co-founded an online university that today is publicly traded Capella University.


Already established employers grew fast. Top of the list is UnitedHealth Group, which in 1993 employed 5,000 people serving 2.3 million customers. Today it employs 113,000 people serving nearly 80 million customers.

And the area scored major home runs, including Stanley S. Hubbard’s $1.3 billion sale of a company that helped create DirecTV.


Meanwhile, the Twin Cities, already home to more parks per capita than most other cities of its size, became an even greener place to live with the addition of attractions ranging from the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary east of downtown St. Paul to downtown Minneapolis’ Mill Ruins Park, the relocated Guthrie Theater, and the conversion of the Stone Arch Bridge into a pedestrian/bike corridor. We also added dozens of hip restaurants and invested heavily in pro sports venues—the new Gopher football stadium (2009), Twins ballpark (2010), and soon, the St. Paul Saints ballpark (2015) and the Minnesota Vikings stadium (2016). And I’d be remiss not to mention my personal favorite, Xcel Energy Center (2000), home ice for the Minnesota Wild.


Violent crime rates are down, we have one more Fortune 500 company in Minnesota today than we did in 1993, and there are dozens of other examples of how the Twin Cities has thrived during this period.


Our region’s success hasn’t been tied to one or even a handful of companies or leaders. Rather, it’s due to a collective caring-and-doing shared by liberals and conservatives, the wealthiest of financiers and the most modest of volunteers. I’m willing to bet there’s no other metropolitan center of our size that has as many involved, caring people. And this caring permeates our corporate cultures, which in turn leads our largest employers to keep reinvesting in the community, both with dollars and by maintaining or increasing their employee counts in Minnesota.


Despite our two seasons (winter and road construction), and other reasons to quibble, there’s an awful lot to be proud of as Minnesotans. Here’s to the next 20 years, and our potential as individuals, families, and leaders to make the Twin Cities an even greater place to work and live.

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