Citizens of Minnesota have a long history of being civic-minded. We rank at or near the top in the country when looking at voter turnout, philanthropic giving and education. Whether the population is urban, rural or suburban, our citizens are actively involved at all levels of government and want what is best for our state. This civic engagement is the bedrock of what makes Minnesota a great state.

Oftentimes, however, the voices and information flying around us encourage us to focus on our differences instead of our shared interests. We tend to think that residents in Minneapolis/St. Paul don’t have the same issues as residents in Thief River Falls. But regardless of what we think (or are told to think), we Minnesotans do all care about and are affected by the workforce shortage, health care, aging populations, immigration, childcare issues, the addiction crisis and other issues troubling our state. We all want a high quality of life.

I have had the privilege of being named the Center for Rural Policy and Development’s president in 2018, and it is clear to me how, as policy discussions concerning rural Minnesota unfold, it is important to understand the past, present, and potential futures of our rural regions. For that reason, I am very excited to help amplify the Center’s voice by sharing our research on issues and concerns facing Greater Minnesota.

Everyone has their own idea and definition of “rural” based on their perceptions—one person’s small town is another person’s weekend city shopping center. However, anyone traveling across our state can agree that most of Minnesota can’t be categorized as strictly rural or metropolitan. Most places are in between.

The set of letters in the following pages is a project by the Center for Rural Policy and Development meant to offer guidance and insight to elected representatives in all offices, but in particular to Minnesota’s new Governor. Although these issues can be distinctly rural, in reading through these letters you will see that Minnesotans have much more in common than not.

We have invited experts from around the state to comment on the ideas and motivations behind some of our toughest policy questions. These trusted voices offer background and recommendations on the issues that matter most. These community leaders and academics in the following pages have offered their sincere thoughts on these issues in their own words.

Throughout the year, the Center for Rural Policy and Development strives to raise awareness of issues and concerns in Greater Minnesota through research and outreach, and in this election year, as we welcome a new governor for the first time in eight years, this collection has become a key part of our mission. It is our sincere hope that the voices in this venue will offer understanding, which in turn will fuel larger discussions and create an aspiration for data-driven decisions.

Let’s work together to make all of Minnesota even better.

Sincerely,

Julie Tesch

President, Center for Rural Policy & Development