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Could ‘North’ become the new Silicon Valley?

Marketplace Contributor Mar 2, 2015
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Many cities across the U.S. are trying to become the next Silicon Valley. The word “startup” is often thrown around as these towns try to compete in today’s global economy.

In Minneapolis, there’s even an effort to attract young talent by pushing for a regional name change. That’s right, a group of business leaders and academics think Minnesota should break away from the Midwest and establish a new region called the “North.”

Tom Fisher is the dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota. He says this change wouldn’t just include the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

“The ‘North’ isn’t just Minnesota. It also includes parts of Iowa, a big part of Wisconsin, parts of Michigan and parts of the Dakotas,” Fisher says.

Fisher says this grassroots effort gives the region a chance to promote something it is often ridiculed for.

“In the ‘North,’ where we often apologize for being cold, at least in the winter, part of what we’re talking is that there’s a huge advantage to that,” Fisher says.

Fisher says in a cold climate, people aren’t as distracted during the winter months, allowing them to huddle up and be creative. He points to the innovative culture in places like Scandinavia. Fisher also says Minnesota and surrounding areas are overlooked for their contributions to the tech community, especially when it comes to health-care technology.

But Paul DeBettignies, a local tech recruiter, says a campaign centered around a name change won’t do much to convince young innovators to flock here. He adds that bragging about being able to thrive in harsh winters might not be a good idea.

“I usually get asked four questions by candidates. The first one is: ‘How cold is it?’ And then: ‘No really, how cold is it?’ DeBettignies says.

DeBettignies says those behind the regional name-change should ditch their geography obsession. He says they will get more mileage out of simply promoting the good things that are happening in the startup community. He also says it wouldn’t hurt to remind the rest of the world that it does get warm here during the summer.

How We Survive
How We Survive
Climate change is here. Experts say we need to adapt. This series explores the role of technology in helping humanity weather the changes ahead.