Thoughts Between Political Ads

Thoughts Between Political Ads

Focus on promising local businesses and entrepreneurs, rather than haranguing politicians.

To: Beleaguered Voters
State of Minnesota

Dear Fellow Voters:

We are in the middle of what the late Senator Howell Heflin of Alabama used to call the “silly season.” Ever-growing amounts of money, most of it unregulated and a great deal of it undisclosed, fund the flood into our e-mail inboxes, mailboxes, doorsteps, and television sets. The key message of it all is that the “other guy” (could be a woman) will raise your taxes, ruin your schools, deprive you of health care, and do all sorts of things too horrible to contemplate. Indeed, the coming election will be the most important election in the history of the United States and Minnesota—just like the last election and just like the next one. But there is some joy that we can glean from this cornucopia of complaining.

For one thing, it is always good when the First Amendment is given robust exercise. All speech, including paid-for blather, is free speech and constitutionally protected. It just costs billions of dollars. But on balance, more free speech is better than less free speech. Furthermore, this is a great situation for one of my favorite Minnesotans, Stanley Hubbard, and the crew at Hubbard Broadcasting. Good for them. The only regret is that this cascade of cantankerous cash is not sprinkled on our two daily newspapers because, given their size, it’s clear they could sure use it.

What has set this country and the state of Minnesota apart has not been its innovation in political advertising, but rather its economic innovation and the associated entrepreneurial spirit. In this state, there are a number of ways in which we celebrate real innovation. Chief among them is the Minnesota Venture and Finance Conference, which was held October 11. Every year for the past 26 years, the Collaborative has presented Minnesota investors with some of the best small-company investment opportunities; this year was no exception. If you want to feel good about real entrepreneurial activity in Minnesota, you should go to this conference next year. To see which companies were featured this year, go to their website ( These are the kind of companies that will be the real growth businesses in Minnesota in the future.

We have discussed previously the great work done in this state by the Metropolitan Economic Development Association (MEDA), now heading into its 41st year. This is an organization that, together with its great sponsors, including companies like General Mills, helps entrepreneurs of color succeed. That’s not a political slogan to be trotted out in the fall of even-numbered years and then safely packed away for the next biennial trumpeting. If you’re tired of looking at constant political ads and want to feel good about the real state of entrepreneurship for all Minnesotans, you should visit the MEDA website (

To see real business and real businesses’ response to the need for diversity and business opportunity, you would have enjoyed the 36th Annual Midwest Business Opportunity Fair held in September at the Minneapolis Convention Center. This is a two-day event sponsored by many of the companies that make Minnesota a great place to do business: Xcel Energy, 3M, Cargill, Best Buy, Medtronic, General Mills, Wells Fargo, Target, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and many others. For the past 36 years, the fair has been matching up minority-certified businesses with the corporations that wish to support them. Currently, the minority-owned businesses represented at the fair account for more than $1.2 billion in annual revenue, employing more than 37,000 employees. This is the kind of effort that a responsive business community—not a political community—mounts to increase real economic advancement for all peoples.

All of the organizations mentioned here have been doing great work, not at taxpayers’ expense nor at politicians’ direction, and have been doing this work for more than a quarter of a century. The point is that these are efforts on a daily basis not tied to an advertising cycle in an even-numbered autumn.

So the next time you see a political ad, ask yourself which group or organization would accomplish what the ad proposes, without relying on government regulation or taxpayer expense. The Collaborative, MEDA, and the Midwest Business Opportunity Fair are three such efforts; there are many more. Please remember them with your patronage, volunteer hours, and contributions.

Vance K. Opperman
I Approve This Message


Vance Opperman (vopperman@key is owner and CEO of MSP Communications, which publishes Twin Cities Business.

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