Regional Profile, Reports, & Program Plans

Regional Profile

Southwest Minnesota is a rural, 14-county region that is home to just under 165,000 people, standing out within the state as a center for loyal, educated, highly skilled workers that are far more affordable than other regions in the state.

Regional Characteristics

With an available labor force of more than 95,000 people, Southwestern Minnesota consistently has the lowest unemployment rates in the state, dropping to 4.9% in 2012.

These workers are very loyal to their employers. According to responses to a Labor Force Assessment conducted in the region, the median employment tenure for primary jobs in the region was 7 years – which was double the national median tenure – and the average employment tenure was 11 to 12 years. Almost 30 percent of respondents reported working at their primary job for 16 years or more.

Although businesses will pay more for higher quality workers, they would rather have equivalently skilled workers at less cost. Southwest Minnesota offers skilled, available workers at less cost than other parts of the state. Since labor is a major cost of business, these savings translate directly to the bottom line. (see the Regional Economic Report for more information)

Business Profile

The region’s educational foundation is also strong. Southwest Minnesota has a higher percentage of adults with associate’s degrees than the state average, with more than one in every ten people (10.5%) having associate’s degrees and just under one-fifth (17.6%) of the region’s adult population holding bachelor’s degrees or higher. The region has one 4-year university (Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall) and five campuses of a 2-year community and technical college (Minnesota West Community & Technical College) spread throughout the region. Graduation rates were high in most of the school districts in Southwest Minnesota, with all but two of the region’s 45 school districts ranking above 94 percent, according to data from the Minnesota Department of Education. That was high even in Minnesota, a state well-known for its educational attainment.

Of the 19 main industry sectors with discloseable data in Southwest Minnesota, over half gained jobs from 2011 to 2012

Health care and social assistance is still the largest employing industry in the region, with more than 12,500 covered jobs at 434 establishments.

The manufacturing industry came in second with just over 12,400 jobs at 259 establishments.

Combined, health care and manufacturing provided more than one-third of the employment in Southwest Minnesota.

Retail trade was the next largest industry in the region, providing 7,800 jobs at 750 businesses after welcoming 80 net new jobs in the last year.

In addition to covered employment, Southwest Minnesota was home to 11,871 self-employed businesses or “nonemployers” in 2010. Average sales receipts for those 11,871 self-employed operations reported sales receipts of just over $450 million. Even as the population declined during the decade, Southwest Minnesota gained nonemployers over time, rising from 11,310 nonemployers in 2002 to 11,871 in 2010, a 5.0 percent increase.

Another important industry in the region is agriculture, with 12,311 farms producing just under $3.2 billion in the market value of products sold in 2007, Redwood County was ranked 4th in the state of Minnesota with $364 million in the market value of products sold, with 1,215 farms. Nobles County was 5th with $344 million produced at 1,094 farms, and Lyon County ranked 9th with $306 million at 1,011 farms. Rock (13th), Jackson (14th), Cottonwood (21st), Murray (22nd), Yellow Medicine (25th), and Swift County (26th) also had large agriculture economies. Redwood County had the most farms, with 1,215 farms and 553,855 acres, and also had the highest percentage of the farms being run as farming operations as the principal occupation, at 68.5 percent. In sum, farms were much more likely to be run as farming operations in Southwest Minnesota (58.7%) than the rest of the state (48.9%).

According to DEED’s Employment Outlook tool, 10 of 11 employment sectors are projected to experience job growth in southwest Minnesota between 2010 and 2020. In all, employment is expected to increase by 10 percent, with education and health services leading the way. Construction is projected to be the fastest growing industry, with an anticipated 31.6 percent growth rate. Education and health services is expected to grow by 30 percent, with fastest job growth in home health care services and community care facilities for the elderly. Additionally, professional and business services is projected to grow by 20 percent, led by gains in investigation and security services and office administrative services. Manufacturing is projected to add over 2,100 jobs with a 7.1 percent increase. Nearly 900 of those jobs are expected to be in machinery manufacturing and nearly 800 are expected to be in manufacturing of agricultural construction and mining machinery.

(see the Regional Economic Report for more information)


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