MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- The Station, in town to moderate a panel discussion at the Compellent C-Drive conference, took a tour of the old downtown yesterday.
Driving by the corner First Avenue night club, he could almost hear Prince, the Replacements, and Husker Du performing before packed audiences. He imagined Mary Tyler Moore joyously throwing her wool cap into the air in the middle of the intersection. (Look ... there's a statue of her right over there!)
Was that Garrison Keillor telling Lake Wobegon stories over at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul? And might that have been Bob Dylan serenading passers-by down on "Positively" Fourth Street, as he did in the early '60s?
On May 6, 2008, downtown Minneapolis was relatively quiet, much like any other large Midwestern city might be during midweek.
But Minnesota, and the greater Twin Cities area in particular -- which has such a wonderful cultural history -- is fast becoming known for more than being a key agricultural merchandising center. Minnesota is now becoming an "IT ideas" place to be.
Target, Best Buy, General Mills, Pepsi, The Travelers and Northwest Airlines -- soon to merge with Atlanta's Delta Airlines-- are already based here. But technology is where this family-friendly region is moving, and in a big way.
Some leading examples of technology companies which have made their homes here:
--3M Co.: Global, diversified technology company with products for health care; industrial; consumer and office; display and graphics; electronics and telecommunications; safety, security and protection; transportation and other markets
--Imation: Makes removable data-storage media products, including magnetic, optical, flash and hard disk products
--ADC Telecommunications: Provides communications network infrastructure and services worldwide
--Fair Isaac Corp.: Business analytics and decision management
--Lawson Software: Develops software for financial management, human resources, professional services automation, procurement, business intelligence and other business management
--Digital River: E-commerce outsourcing service provider
--Hutchinson Technology: Makes suspension assemblies for computer disk drives
--Datalink: Makes networking storage systems.
--Digi International: Data communications hardware and software products
--Xiotech: Makes leading-edge data storage and data recovery systems.
--Compellent Technologies: Enterprise-class automated network tiered storage systems; started by founders of Xiotech.
California's Silicon Valley, the greater Boston and Washington D.C. areas, and Austin still may be the leading regions in the United States, but the Land of 10,000 Lakes is fast establishing itself in the same image.
Phil Soran, Compellent's co-founder and CEO, told us that one of the big reasons why the IT business is growing so fast here is that "the state university system is turning out some good engineers. That and plus all that Norwegian scientific-type culture."
It's true. Those Norsemen were awfully good at sailing tech, way back when. Now their descendants are developing good software.
This area has turned out to be a competitive advantage for Compellent, one of the hottest young data storage companies around.
"We have about 240 employees, and most all are from this area or the Midwest," Soran said. "They have that Midwestern culture -- very loyal, and they don't tend to hop around from company to company like they do elsewhere. Of course, there aren't as many companies here as there are in Silicon Valley, too."
True. But for how long will this be the case? Life is eminently more affordable in this part of the country, and it's darn more expensive in the Bay Area and on the East Coast.