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 Response Page - Lenz / Osterman  Interview -      

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Jeremy Lenz / Lynne Osterman Interview of


Jeremy Lenz, chief operations officer, BioBusiness Alliance of Minnesota, and Lynne Osterman, executive director, MN Nano, represent coalitions of high tech firms. Lenz and Osterman contend that the state of Minnesota needs a state plan and a planning agency; absent an overall state vision, businesses, cities and counties need to work independently to present their individual strengths rather than being able to rely on a single coherent message from the state. Minnesota needs to compete with other states by helping its high tech firms thrive. Post-secondary education institutions can help to improve the stateís competitiveness.

For the complete interview summary see:

Response Summary:  Readers have been asked to rate, on a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, the following points discussed by Lenz and Osterman. Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readersí zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

1. State plan needed. (6.6 average response) A state plan is needed to help the Governor and Legislature allocate public dollars.

2. Planning agency required. (5.3 average response) A state planning agency should be established.

3. Business must provide the message. (8.0 average response) Businesses need to fill the vacuum of no state plan by trying to present a coherent message of their own.

4. Competition necessitates nurturing. (7.1 average response) Minnesota needs to compete with other states by helping key businesses like the life sciences industry thrive.

5. Post-secondary cooperation key. (8.6 average response) Post-secondary institutions should expand their cooperation with biotech and nanotech businesses.


Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree


Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. State plan needed.







2. Planning agency required.







3. Business must provide the message.







4. Competition necessitates nurturing.







5. Post-secondary cooperation key.







Individual Responses:

Chris Brazelton  (10)  (5)  (5)  (7.5)  (10)

2. Planning agency required. A new agency might end up bogged down in costly bureaucracy.  How about a task force that might be set up within the structure of an existing agency to avoid costly start up time?  Growth and Justice or other such agencies already exist that could research the issue, make recommendations, and then reconvene down the road to assess progress.

3. Business must provide the message. They can and do, but each business must look at its own profitability and future, and a state plan would be more comprehensive and include a wider vision for the state.

4. Competition necessitates nurturing. We absolutely must compete with other states, and provide an environment within which enterprises can thrive.  The nature of any help must be examined.

5. Post-secondary cooperation key. The relationship is obvious to me.

Anonymous   (0)  (0)  (5)  (2.5)  (2.5)

Debby Frenzel  (2.5)  (2.5)  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)

Dennis L. Johnson  (0)  (0)  (7.5)  (0)  (7.5)

1. State plan needed. Isn't this what these elected officials are paid to do?  Allocate public resources. Creating another agency not directly responsible to the public through elections is a mistake leading to bigger government, calcification of procedures, more regulation, more bureaucracy, and higher costs. (Spoken as a trained professional planner.)

2. Planning agency required. Why? See above for public planning; private sector planning can take care of itself without public aid or interference.

3. Business must provide the message. Fine, if done without interference from the state government.

4. Competition necessitates nurturing. Just keep government out of the way, and these businesses will thrive on their own. The only role for government is keeping taxes low enough to make these businesses competitive and profitable. And limiting regulation to the minimum needed to protect public safety.

5. Post-secondary cooperation key. Fine, if done cooperatively among businesses and institutions, which can voluntarily establish better methods of cooperation than government can think of. Methinks the presenters are statists and think that government is smarter than those in the private sector. Name three successful innovative technologies that are a result of government initiatives. (And don't name Solyndra.)

Ray Ayotte  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

Bert LeMunyon  (7.5)  (2.5)  (10)  (7.5)  (10)

2. Planning agency required. I think the private sector can, through existing organizations, put a plan together to present to state government agencies and legislators.

3. Business must provide the message. See 2 above

Scott Halstead  (10)  (10)  (10)  (7.5)  (10)

4. Competition necessitates nurturing. We need to adequately fund our higher education system and ensure they have high technology programs that produce highly qualified people and promote new technology.  We need to evaluate our tax system and ensure we retain high tech firms and people.

Peter Hennessey  (0)  (0)  (10)  (5)  (10)

1. State plan needed. No. Even Minnesota is a State in the USA, not in the USSR. We are still trying to run a free economy, are we not? Government has no business allocating funds for private use and benefit. Does the Minnesota Constitution specifically permit such expenditures?

2. Planning agency required. No. Even Minnesota is a State in the USA, not in the USSR. We are still trying to run a free economy, are we not? Government has no business establishing agencies to plan the economy. Does the Minnesota Constitution specifically permit setting up such agencies?

3. Business must provide the message. Who knows better, who pays more attention, a business with its own money and its very survival on the line, or some self-important paper pusher in the State bureaucracy?  Seems to me, the only thing the State should do is monitor the cooperation and coordination between the private companies so there will be no violations of anti-trust laws when businesses try to "present a coherent message of their own."   There are plenty of precedents and examples of industry-wide cooperation, such as the National Electrical Code, Underwriters Laboratories, ANSI, SEMI, ASE, etc., all of which facilitate cooperation and compatibility within an industry while preserving healthy competition among the participants, and all of which arose totally without government instigation or interference.

4. Competition necessitates nurturing. Who precisely is the "Minnesota" in the sentence above?  If it's the State, then, yes, Minnesota needs to compete but no, not with hand-outs from the State budget.  If it's the private sector, well, then, yes, Minnesota needs to compete, and your private sector is already doing that.  Question: Why single out the life sciences? Are other sciences/technologies not worthy of attention? Is Minnesota not known for enterprises in other science/technology areas?

5. Post-secondary cooperation key. Private industry can contract with university labs for basic research, help direct research toward short term and long term applications in the real world, help productize discoveries and innovations, give employees time to teach or conduct research projects in the universities, etc. The only assistance or interference from the State that is needed is the revision of certain laws and regulations (if any) so as to facilitate this kind of collaboration. The only assistance or interference from the universities that is needed is a change in bias for "pure research" and disdain for anything even remotely smelling of practical application.

Bruce A. Lundeen  (7.5)  (2.5)  (5)  (7.5)  (5)

Don Anderson  (10)  (5)  (5)  (7.5)  (10)

1. State plan needed. A state plan is needed for more than business needs, but it has to relate to all the other state needs.

2. Planning agency required. State planning agency covers more than business needs.

John Sievert  (7.5)  (2.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)

2. Planning agency required. We really don't need more governmental agencies; we need to simplify what we have.

Laurie Johnson  (0)  (0)  (10)  (0)  (10)

David Dillon  (7.5)  (0)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)

1. State plan needed. (It is t)ime for the Governor to step up and be a leader.

2. Planning agency required. The fatal conceit. Another agency, more overhead cost.

4. Competition necessitates nurturing. Yes, and primarily that means making Minnesota tax competitive.  It is not a question of overall taxation, not even business taxes in general.  Start-ups in Minnesota are at a particular disadvantage compared to Wisconsin and other states.

Anonymous  (5)  (0)  (7.5)  (5)  (2.5)

1. State plan needed. There is already a state plan for tech businesses through the authority-

2. Planning agency required. There is already an Authority for this- why duplicate?

4. Competition necessitates nurturing. The state should support all innovation-based businesses.

5. Post-secondary cooperation key. Higher education should support all R&D industries, not just life sciences.

Dave Broden  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

1. State plan needed. The State needs a vision of the future and that must encompass various segments of the state economy and quality of life.  A plan that is a vision statement with a series of supporting mission statements and top-level actions is preferred. A detailed lengthy plan with many specifics is not desired or within the role of the state. The vision/mission must enable key elements of the state to do what is best and link the various elements. While I feel strongly that a vision/mission and related actions is desired I have rated this a moderate rather than strong because a detailed plan would be counter productive.

2. Planning agency required.  A State planning agency that is lean and focused would be very beneficial if its role was well defined, (it) required results, and (it) connected well with various elements across the state. The agency must be controlled to not be an agency for itself but for the service to the state. It must include citizens on advisory panels, not only "wonks' and "experts". It should set a vision or better stated challenges to the various sectors. These challenges should require some sort of "approval' from the executive branch and/or legislature but not be redone by either. This agency needs to work somewhat as an independent agency.

3. Business must provide the message. Business must present a message of opportunity and growth and other key points with or without a state agency. Filling a vacuum is not a realistic use of a word in this case. Business must lead and shape the evolution of the particular business, an industry, a sector, and related elements of the state. The state must enable this to happen and provide the quality of life, education, etc. that is needed to ensure business is successful and Minnesota citizens have opportunities for meaningful employment.

4. Competition necessitates nurturing. Minnesota must provide a business climate that encourages businesses to be established, grow and continue in Minnesota. This is not just lower taxes and more appropriate regulations it must include education, retraining, quality of life, transportation, etc. In today's world there seems to be confusion regarding what the role of the state is vs. business. In many cases, too much has been deferred to the state vs. business just doing it without the state jumping in and saying do or do not.  Minnesota was a strong risk-taking state but seems to have evolved to be very risk averseóresult: we often hear that there is something we cannot do rather than we will do it and we will find a way to do it. The state, business, and citizens alike all need to get back to the American view of risk-taking for success not using the state as a support element. Minnesota will compete effectively when it effectively communicates its strengths and works to get better where needed without whining that more federal or state role is needed. This is called leadership-- we will compete with leadership not with management styles.

5. Post-secondary cooperation key. I am not sure what the word cooperation means, but if cooperation means to better line business needs to the course in post-secondary education and that includes both 4-year degrees and vo-tech this is a must. The ever-changing technology world is reshaping the needed job skills continuously and education must recognize these trends and adapt. The adapting must not get caught up in buzzwords of technology but look for realistic long-term trends. Education must provide for adaptability of the work force. This adaptability must include courses structured for continuous retraining of the workforce as technology changes. The technology vs. jobs mismatch of today will only increase. This requires not only post secondary for those of that age but it must add a strong new and continuing capablity for adult retraining and adaptability. The state must address together with business a long-term approach for continuous learning and retraining--which without we will not either reduce unemployment or fill job needs. Further, we need a policy and leadership to keep subject matter experts in all fields working well past the typical retirement age of today of 58-60. This workforce is valuable and can be used as is, but with a bit of retraining it is a definite strength of Minnesota when state demographics are considered.

R. C. Angevine  (10)  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)

Richard McGuire  (7)  (7)  (10)  (8)  (10)

Wayne Jennings  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

I believe that these two areas, among others, will contribute mightily to Minnesota's economic health. Failing to provide planning tools and necessary actions will be to our detriment.

Tom Spitznagle  (8)  (10)  (7)  (10)  (10)

There seems to be some synergy between the concept of a state planning agency and a growing interest among legislators and the governor in the concept of government redesign - an important concept that needs to be implemented at the "enterprise" level and include all levels of government from the state on down.

Chuck Lutz   (9)  (9)  (8)  (9)  (8)

Lyall Schwarzkopf  (8)  (6)  (8)  (9)  (10)

John Adams  (10)  (10)  (6)  (7)  (8)

The evolving cooperation between Steven Rosenstone and Eric Kaler is a promising start. 

Paul and Ruth Hauge  (7)  (7)  (6)  (8)  (7)

Clarence Shallbetter  (3)  (3)  (7)  (6)  (8)

Larrry Schluter   (9)  (10)  (8)  (8)  (9)

We had a state planning agency.  The elimination of that agency was a very poor decision.

Shirley Heaton  (na)  (na)  (10)  (na)  (10)

During my career as an urban planner with various governments, I found it interesting that it was the private sector which was turned to every time to bail the bureaucrats out of their various dilemmas. In other words, in this matter the private sectors should take the lead.


The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   Verne C. Johnson, chair;  David Broden, Charles Clay, Marianne Curry, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  Marina Lyon, Joe Mansky, John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  and Wayne Popham 

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
8301 Creekside Circle #920,   Bloomington, MN 55437.
Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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