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When people imagine what a tech hub is, they often have one place in mind. But what if we envisioned something different? A tech hub, after all, can look like anything.

It’s sometimes hard to know where we stand here in Minneapolis-Saint Paul when there is a new ranking of tech markets almost every week. Of course, as Minnesotans we love to share the good rankings and conveniently ignore the rest. But we should remember one thing throughout: We are already a leading tech hub. Powered by more than 136,000 people across a variety of fields, we are a tech giant often hiding in plain sight.

Last year at the SXSW Interactive Festival, I had the chance to travel with Minnestar‘s Maria Ploessl as she represented #mntech. Do you know which Minnesota company stole the show? It was Land O’Lakes!

While but one example, here is a food & agriculture company that builds a leading data platform to drive sustainability, is transforming agronomy through the power of technology, and continues to re-imagine how it can help farmers grow food to feed families and create opportunities for its co-operative of members.

That is indicative of our region. We are a tech hub with a purpose, using technology as a means to solve real problems, including the world’s biggest. It’s how we grew the 18 Fortune 500 headquarters we have, dozens more in the past, and the next ones rising in the startup capital of the North.

The photo above shows a project called RecruitVR that our MSP Tech team supported to help bring our community to tech candidates around the world. While I imagine those candidates will be surprised by what they see, so might we. (Something we were reminded by the DocuMNtary project on Minnesota’s storied tech history.)

Tech talent attraction and retention

Make It. MSP. is the region’s collaborative effort to better attract and retain talent, including the work of the MSP Tech team to better attract and retain tech talent. However, examining our region’s performance requires greater context surrounding our unique strengths and opportunities.

Yes, we are a tech hub. But there are others. Yes, we have been growing. But not at the rate of many of our peers.

We have built our way to success through our pipeline. People develop here and they build things here. To ensure that continues, we need to be open to new pathways to better prepare our greatest assets. However, with every passing week we also miss opportunities when the people who currently power our tech community choose to leave, choose not to re-join us, or turn down an offer to come for the first time. It stunts growth for others and prevents the creation of additional local opportunities, including those adjacent to tech.

Fortunately, according to our analysis of LinkedIn user data, MSP attracted more technology talent over the past year than it lost to other places in the world. That makes us a net importer of tech talent. It is a notable development at a time when most metro regions in the Midwest are net losing tech talent.

We stack up with most leading metros in the country – places like Dallas, Charlotte, and Atlanta.  And while a handful of key regions lead the pack, history shows that performance can change dramatically in less than a generation. That work starts through engagement within an existing tech community.

Download the report

This winter we worked with the GREATER MSP Partnership‘s research team to assemble a brief report for our current and prospective partners across Make It. MSP.

It is not designed to provide all the information about our region’s tech economy or all the solutions to attracting and retaining talent. Rather, it is meant to help get folks thinking with a critical eye, get them excited about the opportunities in front of us, and hopefully provide a sense of urgency. We will need some new solutions, need to scale those that are working, and need to be willing to fail forward and try again.

Stay tuned this year for additional Insights reports from Make It. MSP., as well as project announcements and new installments in our “Develop in MSP” video series.