There will be 50,000 more people living in southeastern Minnesota in the next 25 years. There will be 44,000 more jobs. And there will need to be 14,000 more housing units.
That’s according to an economic forecast study released Tuesday by the Southeastern Minnesota League of Municipalities, a municipal organization of 65 communities in Dodge, Fillmore, Goodhue, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Wabasha and Winona counties.
SEMLM also proposed major policy shifts to accommodate population and employment growth over the next 25 years, including zoning changes to support greater housing production, expanded transportation networks, a regional tourism strategy, immigrant support resources and programs to increase access to child care.
“Southeastern Minnesota has tremendous and exciting growth potential,” state Sen. Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) said in a release from SEMLM. “The Regional Economic Impact Study will help us better coordinate our efforts within the region, so we can take advantage of our incredible opportunities and create a thriving regional hub for commerce and economic development.”
Miller was one of three state legislators — the other two were Rep. Greg Davids (R-Preston) and Sen. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) — to help secure funding for the study. Community and Economic Development Associates assisted, as did other groups, such as the 7 Rivers Alliance and officials in La Crosse County and the City of La Crosse.
Among the study’s key findings and related recommendations are:
- The population of Southeastern Minnesota is projected to grow by more than 50,000 over the next 25 years. To support this population growth, the region will require an additional 14,000 housing units above the current pace of housing production. Local officials will determine which housing policy solutions make sense for their communities.
- Regional employment is forecasted to grow by 44,000 by 2040. With 10,000 existing unfilled jobs, the study proposes a series of initiatives to support the region’s existing and growing employment base: expanding regional transit improvements; increasing access to child care; supporting the region’s immigrant population which increases labor supply and opportunities for innovation.
- Tourism is growing in the region. Given Minnesota’s growing tourism industry, and the strength of the industry in the region, the study proposes that Southeastern Minnesota develop a regional tourism strategy to grow economic opportunities in the industry.
- The region’s high health care premiums, relative to elsewhere in the state, have economic development implications, impacting the region’s ability to competitively attract and retain businesses. The study also reflects on shifting trends in the region’s major industries, including agriculture and manufacturing.
- By solving for challenges facing the region described above, however, the study postulates that the region can maximize and extend the economic benefit to the region from current and future growth.
The full study and data outputs can be found on the SEMLM’s website at www.semlm.org.