of LifeScience Alley Adopt aggressive
strategies to attract and keep highly-trained talent
Civic CaucusFocus on Human CapitalInterview October
Broden (vice chair), Pat Davies, Paul Gilje (executive director),
Randy Johnson, Sallie Kemper, Dan Loritz (chair), Shaye Mandle, Dana
Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter. By phone: Amir Gharbi.
Twin Cities form the most densely concentrated medical technology
community in the world, according to Shaye Mandle of LifeScience
Alley. "Minnesota is med tech, more so than any other place in the
world," he says. LifeScience's 600 healthcare-related member
businesses employ nearly 300,000 Minnesotans, mainly in the Twin
has enjoyed an advantage over the years in having a good education
system and a highly skilled workforce, but Mandle warns that other
places are closing in on that advantage.
He believes that neither the U.S.
nor Minnesota is meeting the increasing needs for a highly trained
technical workforce. The med-tech companies with whom he works are
heavily dependent on talent in engineering, chemistry, biochemistry
and research and they are unable to find sufficient qualified
applicants for a number of their job openings. He cites a real
deficiency in technical talent in software and software development as
a particular challenge facing the region, because it's not producing
enough software developers.
Further, those we do produce often don't stay here and those produced
elsewhere do not come here.
Mandle believes his organization and others need to promote nationally
and even worldwide
expertise in med tech and its tight supply chain.
He sees the need to engage young people in their 20s about the job
opportunities, the culture and other quality-of-life amenities the
area offers. Once people come to Minnesota they tend to stay, he says,
but the problem is we don't have enough people coming here relative to
the number of people who do
Our problem importing talent is a significant inhibitor to our ability
to stay competitive and grow.
He also recommends that we focus our energy internally on getting
Minnesota students in the K-12 and early postsecondary years engaged
and interested in pursuing technical fields. He
notes that Minnesota lacks a world-class private research university,
like Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Northwestern or the University of
Chicago. Such private institutions, he says, have more flexibility
than large public universities. But he points out that the University
of Minnesota is highly ranked in many areas and is among the top five
research universities in the country in terms of federally funded
research, drawing in almost $1 billion a year.
LifeScience Alley's support of life science businesses in Minnesota
prompted the Civic Caucus to invite the group's president and CEO,
Shaye Mandle, to discuss the role of this important industry sector in
economic competitiveness, with an emphasis on the human capital
challenges facing the sector.
30 years, LifeScience Alley has played a leadership role in growing
Minnesota's Medical Alley, a geographic swath that starts in St.
Cloud, passes through the Twin Cities area and reaches down to
Rochester. This area is home to more than 600 medical technology
companies and healthcare organizations.
non-profit trade association Medical Alley, a precursor to LifeScience
Alley, was founded in 1984 to support Minnesota's healthcare industry.
It focused on legislative issues, education, and investment in
Minnesota as a major center of healthcare achievement, research, and
innovation. MNBIO was founded in 1991 as a nonprofit trade association
to serve as the eyes, ears, and voice of biotechnology in
In 2005, the two organizations merged, drawing on the strengths of
both to become LifeScience Alley.
In 2010, LifeScience Alley and The BioBusiness Alliance of Minnesota,
a nonprofit organization focused on industry development for
high-knowledge sectors, announced their affiliation.
Today, LifeScience Alley, and its subsidiary, The BioBusiness Alliance
of Minnesota, work to strengthen the regional economy by nurturing the
growth of established and emerging enterprises and attracting new
companies, talent, and capital. The nonprofit trade association
continues to focus on the life sciences business sector, which include
healthcare achievement, research and innovation, as well as
Shaye Mandle is president and CEO of LifeScience Alley, a position he
has held since May 1, 2014. Previously, Mandle served as the
association's executive vice president and chief operating officer and
was responsible for aligning internal operations with organizational
strategy and overseeing advocacy efforts and key external
From 2011 to 2013, he served as vice president of government and
Mandle has 20 years of experience in government, the private sector
and academia. Prior to joining LifeScience Alley, he served as
executive director of the FedEx Institute of Technology at the
of Memphis, where he launched the University Office of Technology
Transfer and led the University's corporate partnership,
entrepreneurship and economic development programming. Earlier, he led
business development and government affairs for the Reconnaissance and
Surveillance Operation of Science Applications International
Corporation (SAIC), a Fortune 500 company specializing in defense and
homeland security technologies.
Mandle also served as chief executive of two industry and economic
development organizations, the East-West Corporate Corridor
Association and the Illinois Coalition.
He has extensive policy and political experience, having managed state
and federal political campaigns and served on the policy staffs of
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) and former Illinois
Governor Jim Edgar.
Mandle has a J.D.,
cum laude, from the Duquesne University Law School and a B.A. from
Illinois Wesleyan University.
LifeScience Alley is
nation's largest trade association focused on healthcare-related
businesses at the state or regional level.
According to Shaye Mandle, nearly all of its 600 members are Minnesota
businesses. But in the last few years, the organization has attracted
some international companies that also do business in the state, as
well as some U.S. companies headquartered elsewhere doing business in
Minnesota. He said the organization represents large companies like
3M, Medtronic, St. Jude Medical and Boston Scientific, as well as most
of the early-stage and small med-tech companies.
The 600 member companies of LifeScience Alley employ nearly 300,000
Minnesotans, mostly in the Twin Cities.
The Twin Cities are the most densely concentrated medical technology
community in the world.
Mandle said total employment in medical technology in the Twin Cities
is about the same as in the Los
area. Boston also has quite a significant number of med-tech
companies, as does Ireland and some other places around the world.
he said, in terms of workforce relative to population, the Twin Cities
are the most densely concentrated by a factor of about three.
"Minnesota is med tech," he said, "more so than any other place in the
In the past year, LifeScience Alley has been doing more research and
producing more reports.
Looking at investor data over the past five years, the organization
has discovered, Mandle said, "about twice as much money being invested
in early-stage companies in Minnesota as we or the rest of the world
Part of our role relative to competitiveness isn't just to look at
where we're weak, but also at where we're doing better than others to
make sure that story gets told."
the report on this data came out, Mandle said he started to get calls
from investors outside
wanting him to connect them to innovative companies here. "That
recruitment of money into the state lends itself to the bigger
discussion of the current state of the workforce, needs relative to
the workforce over the next couple of decades and where Minnesota
really sits," he said.
In any industry today, higher education levels and particular
technical skills are more and more in demand, but high school
education and college education aren't what they were 20 years ago.
"For a long time, we have been operating on the assumption that if
kids go to college, they will have the earnings potential we've seen
for the past couple of generations," Mandle said.
"Statistically, that isn't true any more.
Today, we have constantly increasing levels of educational
achievement, without the social and economic impacts that prior
generations have had."
Also, Mandle said, there are cultural differences between generations
in the softer skills, such as general business acumen, the ability to
solve problems and analytical skills.
He said a Harvard study concluded that Americans in the 55-to-65-age
range are exceptional relative to their peer groups around the world
and Americans 35 to 55 are on par.
"But as you continue to work down to the next two generations, we're
falling behind other places," he said.
Employers have told Mandle that students coming out of college today
are significantly deficient, compared to prior generations, in their
ability to adapt quickly and to problem-solve on their own. And that's
despite their growing up in a world that's changing every day, he
Neither the U.S.
nor Minnesota is meeting the increasing needs for a highly trained
The companies LifeScience Alley works with are very heavily dependent
on talent in engineering, chemistry, biochemistry and research, Mandle
said. They have a significant number of jobs posted that do not draw
sufficient applicants or qualified people.
LifeScience Alley has worked to increase opportunities for H1B visas
in order to get more technical talent in the short run. The
organization has worked with the K-12 education system and higher
education to produce more technical talent in the longer term.
Minnesota has one of most highly educated workforces in the world, he
said, and has had one of the best K-12 systems in the world.
"We've had significant levels of achievement to compete," he said.
One big challenge
and the U.S. face is how to keep our achievement level higher than the
rest of the world.
"That gap continues to close," he said. "We tend to struggle with what
we're doing wrong, but in some ways, it's what the rest of the world
is doing right."
Even in the U.S., other states are closing the gap on the advantage
Minnesota has always enjoyed, he said.
real deficiency in technical talent in software and software
development is a big emerging challenge for the Twin Cities.
"This is a tremendous challenge that Minnesota is way behind on," he
"In the Twin Cities, this will be a really big issue over the next few
years. We have to find a way to meet it or it's going to degrade a lot
of the jobs in related industries."
Mandle said the
of Minnesota, the private schools and the community colleges should be
training students to meet the demand for software developers.
"We have an amazing education system," he said. "The issue is not that
the software developers we produce aren't capable, it's that we don't
produce enough of them.
And more importantly, they don't stay here and they don't come here
from other states." He said lots of Minnesotans in the software field
go to places like Silicon Valley; Austin, Tex.;
Silicon Alley in New York; Research Triangle Park in North Carolina;
or, lately, Chicago.
Part of the role of LifeScience Alley is to amplify the expertise in
this community and to promote it around the country.
"We have the greatest, tightest supply chain in the world," Mandle
said. "It's a great place to do business."
He said it's also really important to be engaging people in their
twenties about the advantages
has to offer.
One of the challenges in training people for highly technical fields
today is that the cost relative to participation is not as efficient
as in some other places, especially in the life sciences.
Mandle said there are a smaller number of students and a higher cost
per student to deliver that type of training and education than in
many other fields. So, if officials are looking for places to cut,
they might decide to cut a highly technical program and focus on more
general education. For example, he said,
Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC)
has had a great two-year biotechnology program that is now on the
cutting block because of cuts in state funding.
We should focus our energy more on getting students engaged and
interested in pursuing technical fields.
Mandle said LifeScience Alley is involved in Minnovator, a program
that also draws other trade organizations and higher education
institutions. Minnovator is looking at how to make college freshmen
aware of emerging fields that might interest them and to get more
people interested in entrepreneurship and technical fields.
One of the glaring absences in Minnesota, compared to our competitive
peers, is that of a world-class private university, likeNorthwestern, the
University of Chicago, Harvard, Stanford or MIT.
According to Mandle, this lack inhibits the state's ability to compete
with other regions that have both top-notch private and public universities.
"There is some valuable flexibility in private schools that big public
universities don't have," he said.
Any new research installation in the state would be very beneficial.
Mandle said, many companies are not growing research and development
today as much as they would like.
The research and development strategy for some companies is via
has in med tech is that not only are we a center of research and
development, but also of manufacturing.For
example, Mandle said, Medtronic has a facility in Brooklyn Center that
employs 1,000 people manufacturing high-grade lithium batteries for
the company's own use.
There is a very noticeable absence of women and minorities in
leadership positions in the med-tech and pharmaceutical industries.
The reason for that, Mandle said, is the historically large number of
men relative to women in technological industries.
He said companies are actively trying to find and recruit women and
minorities with engineering and scientific degrees.
"It starts with K-12," he said.
"The solution is to attract more females and minorities into STEM
Mandle believes that,
over the years, companies have pulled back from programs that used to
take them into K-12 schools. "The disconnect of industry from the K-12
system has had an impact," he said. "That's a place where we could
explore getting more industry folks involved. And it's important to
get more women leaders from tech industries into the schools."
Having more crossover among industries could help retain people who
are already in the workforce here.
An interviewer commented that a number of people who had worked in the
defense industry in Minnesota moved into the med-tech sector, as
defense declined here. Mandle commented that the model of one industry
producing another industry through cross-fertilization was much more
likely to happen when people already here wanted to keep living here.
"But that's not how the world works anymore," he said. "Graduates of
of Minnesota now ask, 'Where do I want to be?' or 'What kind of field
do I want to be in and where is the action in that field?' In terms of
the emerging generation making choices to stay here or people wanting
to come here, we have to be able to sell an economy and lifestyle that
It would take a lot more money to move the University of Minnesota (U
of M) up substantially in the rankings of great research universities
in the country.
"Part of the challenge," Mandle said, "is that in order for Minnesota
to move up, it must pass other schools having the same conversation.
There are many areas of the U of M that are highly ranked and it's one
of the top five in attracting federal research funding."
The U of M is one of the five biggest research universities in the
country in terms of federally funded research, drawing in almost $1
billion a year.
"Part of the blessing and the curse of the big research universities
in the Midwest is that people across the whole world come here,"
Mandle said. "But the question is what do they do when they're done?"
he asked. "There should be a more concerted effort to connect graduate
students coming to the U of M to industry in the Twin Cities, so
they're not just going back to wherever they came from.
I'm not sure how much better we need to be in terms of being a
research enterprise, because there are only a couple of universities
ahead of us."
Physical infrastructure is not this region's problem. An
interviewer commented that the Metropolitan Council has said the
region needs a massive investment in a fixed-guideway transit system
that goes from downtown to "wherever," with none of it going to the
places where med-tech companies are located.
Mandle pointed out that the area from
to Eden Prairie is the Silicon Valley of the med-tech world. But he
doesn't see the med-tech companies getting heavily involved in the
infrastructure issue, because "nobody does government and
infrastructure better than Minnesota." He said our traffic congestion
doesn't compare with that of Chicago, Washington, D.C., or Los
Destination Medical Center, the massive expansion planned for
Rochester over the next 20 years, Mandle believes we will need a much
more economical connection between Rochester and the Twin Cities. He
pointed out that Mayo Clinic has employees in every county of the
state, although not all of them commute to
"There's a lot of activity between the Twin Cities and Rochester
that's incredibly inefficient," he said.
"We would be advocates for much better and more efficient
transportation between Rochester and the Twin Cities. That's an
A lot of research that's going to create new companies is happening
there and it needs to connect to the Twin Cities business and investor
I think that's important to
The Twin Cities' problem is getting people to know the story, to know
what opportunities exist here and to be interested in taking a look
"Transportation's not our problem," Mandle said. "For the
concentration and quality of the workforce here and the quality of
government services, we're trying too hard to fix things that aren't
our biggest challenges and aren't competitive disadvantages for us.
We're not spending enough time letting the rest of the world know that
their future success could be here."
Long term, the supply of human capital now and in the coming years is
a critical issue for
Mandle said the large companies LifeScience Alley works with can hire
whomever they want and bring them here.
People move from all over the world to work for Medtronic and 3M.
"What you don't want someday," he said, "is for companies to only be
headquartered here and not really do anything here. That doesn't
contribute to our economy."
research and development doesn't happen as much here, my fear is that
our biggest companies are shrinking here to grow in other places," he
"As access to innovation, to early-stage companies and to the investor
environment gets harder, more people leave the state than used to.
We're third among the states in retaining our people.
Minnesotans like to stay or, at least, come back.
But we're 23rd of the top 25 metro areas in attracting new
Our problem importing talent is a significant inhibitor to our ability
to stay competitive and grow.
Mandle said our number-one need is marketing what we have here to the
next generation of talent around the country.
"That's what I would do, if I could do one thing," he said.
"I would go to Boston, San Diego, Austin, Research Triangle Park,
Chicago, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Denver and Salt Lake City and tell
16-to-25 year-olds why they should be here and why their quality of
life will be better. Once people come here, they won't leave.
The problem is we don't have enough people coming here relative to the
number of people who do leave.
We need a bunch of people in their 20s to decide to move here.
We need to tell them that the cultural amenities and the cool factor
once you're in the Twin Cities are off the charts."
Venture capital is critical.
Companies need it to get started, Mandle said.
But it's also important culturally, he said.
Boston, the San Francisco area and Los Angeles are Minnesota's biggest
competitors in the med-tech industry.
And Nashville is a major competitor in the health care and IT sector.
"California is the worst place in the country to do business.
But people go there, because they know there will always be companies
there, since 80 percent of the venture capital in this country resides
Mandle said LifeScience Alley is trying to get venture capital
companies to come to the Twin Cities.
Ten to 20 years ago people raised big funds to invest in med tech, he
said, but now two things are happening that are bad for the field:
Med tech is not such a good investment anymore, because it takes too
long to get your money out.
All the pioneers who raised big funds to invest in med tech are coming
to the ends of those funds and aren't necessarily raising more. There
are many fewer venture funds headquartered in the Twin Cities than 10
or 20 years ago.
We need more state and local business subsidies.
"The world today is flat and small," Mandle said. "The incentives
piece is important.
Minnesota is near the bottom in terms of incentives it will provide
for companies. The 2014 Legislature did put more money into that
through DEED (the Department of Employment and Economic Development)
and Greater MSP. But other states will throw crazy money at companies
and have been doing that for about a decade. So, a state can buy you,
but if you can't get the workforce or supply chain you need, it's not
a good location."
Mandle said businesses are getting much more sophisticated about doing
a full-scale evaluation before making location decisions. This makes
Minnesota reasonably competitive in certain industries, despite the
smaller incentives the state offers.
Minnesota's business climate is not great," he said, "compared to
California and Massachusetts, it's not so bad."
"The incentives piece is
relevant," Mandle said.
"It's a dangerous game to get into, but one which we would be silly
not to think more about."
The Civic Caucus
is a non-partisan,
tax-exempt educational organization. The Interview Group
includes persons of varying political persuasions,
reflecting years of leadership in politics and
business. Click here
to see a short personal background of each.
S. Adams, David Broden, Audrey Clay, Janis Clay, Pat Davies, Bill
Frenzel, Paul Gilje (executive director), Randy Johnson, Sallie Kemper, Ted Kolderie, Dan Loritz (chair),
Tim McDonald, Bruce Mooty, John Mooty, Jim Olson, Paul Ostrow, Wayne
Popham, Dana Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter, and Fred Zimmerman