Google Joins the Growing MN High Tech Association

A spokesman for the Minnesota High Tech Association said that Google hasn't revealed substantial plans for the state-but the company is looking to collaborate with Minnesota tech companies.

Mountain View, California-based Google, Inc., made headlines this week when it announced plans to acquire Motorola Mobility Holdings, Inc.

But the tech company and search engine giant is also making its mark in Minnesota by becoming a member of the Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA).

“Google hasn't said to us, 'here's our agenda,'” Andrew Wittenborg, director of communications at the MHTA, told Twin Cities Business. Wittenborg didn't speculate about Google's plans for the state, but he said that the company approached the MHTA about a month ago with interest in joining the association.

“[Google] just wants to collaborate with more Minnesota members and see where it goes from there-which is fairly common with our new members,” Wittenborg explained. “That, said we'd like to have them very involved.”

In addition to paying annual membership dues-which vary based on each member's type of business and its annual revenues-members can get “involved” in a variety of ways. For example, they can sponsor the association's events or contribute to the Minnesota High Tech Foundation, which awards scholarships.

Wittenborg said that a key focus of the MHTA is to spur collaboration between early-stage and larger, mature companies like Google, and that the association's events bring the two together to help increase the use of Minnesota-based vendors.

“When you look at it on a day-to-day basis, we just get excited about making the best environment for Minnesota's high-tech industry,” Wittenborg said. And although the association seeks memberships from organizations of all sizes, including small start-ups, “having a big and recognizable name [like Google] associated with us is helpful too.”

Google may not currently have a physical presence in Minnesota, but it claims to have made a significant impact on the state's economy. In fact, Google said in May that it generated $1 billion in economic activity in Minnesota in 2010 through 28,000 Minnesota businesses, Web site publishers, and nonprofits.

And Duluth was recently in the running to be the first city to get Google's ultra high-speed network-but it lost out to Kansas City, Kansas in March. Duluth was rumored to be a frontrunner in the competition after it drew attention from a YouTube video featuring Mayor Don Ness jumping into Lake Superior; also, the city jokingly pledged to name its firstborn males “Google Fiber” and firstborn females “Googlette Fiber,” which was in response to Topeka, Kansas, vowing to change its name to “Google, Kansas” for a month.

The MHTA-which supports the state's high-tech industry through lobbying efforts and signature events like the Tekne Awards-has been growing quickly. Google joins about 50 other companies and organizations that have joined the MHTA this year-including diverse entities like LarsonAllen, LLP, Iron Range Resources, some of the state's universities, Red Wing Shoe Company, and Hardcore Computer, Inc. Download the entire list here.

The MHTA, which now includes more than 300 members, was founded in 1982 as the Minnesota High Technology Council, and its growth in 2011 comes under a new leader. The association last fall named Margaret Anderson Kelliher president; she succeeded Kate Rubin, who left to join UnitedHealth Group.