Pioneer Press -- Academics and others have some smart advice that leaders in the east metro should consider when it comes to turning "clusters" of business activity into economic advantages. A two-day conference last week hosted by the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs outlined a cluster-based approach to economic development and growth, and launched a new online mapping tool -- at clustermapping.us. Lee Munnich, a senior fellow at the Humphrey School, cites key clusters we in St. Paul and the east metro should bear in mind:
-- Health care: An employment analysis in June from the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce lists health care and social assistance as the No. 1 industry sector in town. The category accounts for more jobs in St. Paul than any other -- about 32,000, or 19.8 percent -- according to 2011 data, the most recent available.
-- Educational institutions: St. Paul proudly lays claim to the title "College Town"-- we're second in the nation in number of education institutions per capita, according to the website Campus Explorer -- with a remarkable cluster of colleges and universities that enrich our community, fuel our economic development and help grow our workforce.
-- Corporate headquarters: The 17 Fortune 500 companies that call the region home "act as drivers for other clusters," by encouraging entrepreneurs, Munnich said, noting that Maplewood-based 3M, for example, is involved in multiple clusters.