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Minnesota tries to make a strong impression in first post-pandemic trade visits to UK, Finland

Gov. Tim Walz, who is leading the group of more than 50 state officials and business leaders, said their early interactions with foreign leaders had been 'incredibly positive.'

DEED Commissioner Steve Grove speaks at a press conference as Gov. Tim Walz looks on inside the Department of Public Safety in St. Paul, Minn., on Thursday, April 30, 2020. Gov. Tim Walz unveiled a plan that extends the state's stay-at-home order and keeps bars and restaurants takeout-only until May 18, but also makes changes to allow some additional business operations. Evan Frost / MPR News, Pool
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ST. PAUL — Minnesota government and business leaders this week set off on a northern European trade mission aimed at boosting exports from the state and netting more investments into Minnesota.

More than 50 Minnesota representatives spent the week in London and Helsinki meeting with federal officials and business leaders there and building new connections around health and medical technology, environmental technology, agriculture and higher education.

Gov. Tim Walz and state agency heads were among the first, if not the first, to resume in-person trade talks with the two countries after the COVID-19 pandemic forced many trade and business summits into virtual settings. And the face-to-face interactions had a profound impact locally, Walz said.

"Incredibly positive reception," Walz told reporters during a teleconference from Helsinki on Wednesday, Nov. 17. "I think that reputation of Minnesota as that problem-solving, innovative state is making a difference."

The Minnesota delegation toured the new Mayo Clinic Healthcare site in London, discussed policies that could slow climate change with energy officials and started conversations around new opportunities for U.K. investors to work with Minnesota companies during their three-day stay in London. The United States and the United Kingdom have yet to formalize a trade deal post-Brexit but state officials said they were hopeful that they'd laid good groundwork.


And they committed to putting pressure on the state's congressional delegation and others in Washington to free up trade between the two countries.

"It's really provided a good opportunity for us to help set the stage for a good trade agreement with the U.K.," Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen said.

The United Kingdom was the eighth largest exporter of Minnesota goods in 2020, and 70 UK businesses operate locations in Minnesota. Meanwhile, 60 Minnesota companies operate businesses in the UK. Finland is not as high on the state's export list but Minnesota exported $19 million to the country last year.

“To show up here with 60 Minnesota businesses is a huge signal to the market that we’re open for business,” Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Steve Grove said. “We’re getting a lot of openness and excitement."

The Minnesota delegation was set to meet with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and companies with Minnesota ties on Wednesday, before wrapping up the visit with additional networking talks on Thursday, Nov. 18. The group was scheduled to travel back to Minnesota on Friday, Nov. 19.

At home, the state tracked a surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths that jumped to the highest in the nation. Health department officials this week said they would open up booster doses of vaccines to curb the latest wave later this week.


  • As COVID wave continues, Minnesota Gov. Walz says he has no plans to declare emergency Hospitalizations in Minnesota remain at their highest since December of last year, reaching 1,382, while test positivity rates and seven-day rolling average cases remained among the highest in the U.S. at 70.9 per 100,000 people.

  • Bodycams to put more eyes on Minnesota authorities A few weeks from now, more than 600 state troopers will be assigned body cameras to record hundreds of thousands of annual interactions with the public — from traffic stops to semitruck inspections to civil disturbances.

  • New Minnesota GOP chairman: ‘Republican Party does not equal party of Trump’

Who is on the trip?

In addition to Walz, first lady Gwen Walz and commissioners Grove and Petersen, dozens of business, education and health leaders joined the trade mission. Here is a list of those in the Minnesota delegation:


  • Shahzad Ahmad, St. Cloud State University associate vice president of Center for International Studies
  • Joel Akason, GREATER MSP senior vice president of business investment
  • Jan Bauer, UK Government consul
  • Bryan Biegler, Minnesota Corn Growers Association president
  • Aaron Budge, Minnesota State University at Mankato dean
  • John Cooney III, SkyWater Technology Foundry Inc. director of government relations
  • Kimberly Craig, Concordia University vice president of enrollment management
  • Jeff Davidman, Delta Air Lines vice president of government affairs
  • G. Anton Decker, president of Mayo Clinic International
  • Steven Dickinson, Cozen O’Connor co-chair of international practice
  • Timothy Dufault, Minnesota Wheat Research and Promotional Council board member and wheat farmer
  • Beverly Durgan, University of Minnesota Extension dean
  • Mohamed Farah, Kaah Transportation president
  • Kathryn Ferguson, Duluth Seaway Port Authority director of trade and business development
  • Bradley Ferguson, Chief Government Affairs Officer, SkyWater Technology Foundry
  • Bodil Forsling, Mall of America tourism account executive
  • Peter Frosch, GREATER MSP president and CEO
  • Jeffrey Grev, Hormel vice president of legislative affairs
  • Nicole Griensewic, Region Nine Development Commission executive director
  • August Hinnenkamp, CLO-CLO Vegan Foods co-founder and CEO
  • Wendy Hinnenkamp, CLO-CLO Vegan Foods founder
  • Harlan Jacobs, Crotega LLC. director of international business development
  • Patrick Kelly, Fredrikson & Byron P.A. shareholder and officer
  • Jukka Kukkonen, Shift2Electric chief electronic vehicle educator and strategist
  • Elaine Kumpula, Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP honorary consul of Finland and partner
  • Laura Lemke, Minnesota Grain and Feed Association executive director
  • Amy Lindgren, Prototype Career Service president
  • Steven Massey, Forest Lake Area Schools superintendent
  • Meredith McQuaid, University of Minnesota associate vice president & dean of international programs
  • Kenneth Morris, KnectIQ founder and CEO
  • Stephen Parente, Insurance Industry Chair of Health Finance at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management
  • Eric Pasi, Impact Power Solutions LLC chief development officer
  • Kim Pearson, New Boundaries Technologies Inc. CEO
  • Virginia Rutter, Clean Energy Economy MN community relations manager
  • Eric Samuelson, Northarvest Bean Growers Association president
  • Patrick Seeb, Destination Medical Center executive director
  • Joseph Smentek, Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council executive director
  • Kenneth Smith, Ever-Green Energy president and CEO
  • Jared Standish, MnDRIVE Advancing Industry, Conserving Our Environment industry liaison
  • Jasmine Stringer, Carpe Diem with Jasmine LLC founder and president
  • Brian Thalmann, Minnesota Corn Growers Association board member
  • Greg Thomas, Innovance sales and marketing director
  • Loren Unterseher, SkyWater Technology Foundry Inc. board member
  • Robbyn Wacker, St. Cloud State University president
  • Richard Weiner, vice president and chair of Fredrikson & Byron's International Law Practice Group
  • Jonathan Weinhagen, Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce president & CEO
  • Donald Weinkauf, University of St. Thomas dean of the School of Engineering,
  • Gary Wertish, Minnesota Farmers Union president
  • Mark Wuollet, Mark-Tech International LLC vice president

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter @bydanaferguson , call 651-290-0707 or email dferguson@forumcomm.com

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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