Conversation explores strategies for growing MPLS tech sector

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April 29, 2014 // UPDATED 10:31 pm - April 30, 2014
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

Community leaders and tech entrepreneurs suggested Minneapolis needs to do a better job of branding itself to emerge as a leading tech hub at a Monday night forum hosted by City Council Member Lisa Bender (Ward 10) at the Republic in Uptown.

Bender organized the panel — the second in her Ten Talk series — to bring entrepreneurs to the table and brainstorm ways to make Minneapolis the tech hub of the Midwest.  Cathy Polasky, the city's director of Economic Policy and Development, Clockwork CEO Nancy Lyons and Kyle Coolbroth of CoCo were the featured speakers.

Coolbroth, co-founder of CoCo, which has three co-working spaces for freelancers and small businesses in the Twin Cities, said the local tech community needs to do a better job of sharing its stories. "We have all the raw resources right now. It's a timing issue," he said. "I think we're sitting in a really great place." 

Lyons of Clockwork, an interactive agency based in Northeast, agreed with Coolbroth. "This market doesn't have a strong enough brand story," she said, adding that small tech firms need to find ways to connect to the region's many Fortune 500 companies to find ways to foster more innovation and growth in the high tech sector. 

Polasky noted that Greater MSP  is working on branding the region to attract new businesses. She also suggested that community leaders should be reaching out to Minnesota natives involved in tech companies who have relocated to try to lure them back to the city.

The panelists also raised the importance of selling the city's strengths compared to other high-tech regions like the Bay Area and Austin, Texas. Minneapolis can offer a higher quality of life, they suggested, because the cost of living is lower here and the city's lakes, parks and cultural scene are strong assets.

Moving forward, Bender said she'll be working with city staff, the panelists and other stakeholders to take action on some of the suggestions, including engaging with Fortune 500 companies to support local startups, creating more tools to share the benefits of living in Minneapolis, investing in education and training and sharing stories about the strength of the startup community. 

 

(From left: Polasky, Coolbroth, Lyons and Bender.)