Walz launches new panel to chart rebuilding of Minnesota’s post-pandemic economy

Gov. Tim Walz on Tuesday launched a new state Council on Economic Expansion to recommend to him and the 2022 Legislature steps for the public, private and nonprofit sectors to rebuild the state’s economy for all Minnesotans.

Walz appointed 15 business, labor and nonprofit leaders — which he called “the brightest minds in Minnesota” — to the panel that will propose initiatives to navigate the state’s emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic and “create a strong economic future that includes every Minnesotan.”

He said it will address such issues as how to employ more people who work from home, the futures of cities’ central business districts, providing training for jobs in the new economy and tackling child care and health care issues.

The council, co-chaired by Jeff Ettinger, former board chairman and CEO of Hormel Foods, and Paul Williams, president and CEO of Project for Pride in Living, is scheduled to hold its first public meeting at 10 a.m. Wednesday. The governor said he expects them to submit their first batch of policy recommendations to him in November.

The state has a growing budget surplus in addition to federal American Rescue Plan funding that the council could tap to advance economic growth. The panel will work with state, local and tribal governments; businesses; colleges and universities; nonprofits; advocacy groups; and communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

Walz named three of his Cabinet members — Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove, Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead and Labor and Industry Commissioner Roslyn Robertson — to work with the council.

In addition to Ettinger and Williams, other council members, whose terms expire July 1, are:

  • Scott Burns, CEO and co-founder of Structural
  • Brett Carter, executive vice president and chief customer and innovation officer of Xcel Energy
  • Joe Fowler, president of the Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council
  • Jodi Huber, vice chair of the Medical Alley board of directors
  • Brenda Hilbrich, president and CEO of Service Employees International Union Healthcare Minnesota
  • Neel Kashkari, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis
  • Marcus Owens, executive director of the African American Leadership Forum
  • Tuleah Palmer, president and CEO of the Blandin Foundation
  • Joo Hee Pomplun, executive director of the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability
  • Nonoko Sato, executive director of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits
  • Traci Tapani, co-president of Wyoming Machine
  • Bharti Wahi, executive director of the Children’s Defense Fund of Minnesota
  • Penny Wheeler, CEO of Allina Health

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