Shish on Grand Avenue, Part II

Matt Entenza and Lois Quam: Minnesota and Norway by Way of Oxford

I had finished eating and finally had my hands free to take some notes, but I couldn’t keep up with Matt Entenza’s torrent of ideas for what he sees in Minnesota’s future.  In particular, his ideas on what he would like to do for an economy that needs boosting.

Now, one of the means that the Republicans in this state have been touting in order to “grow the economy” is to cut services and cut taxes so that big bidness will flock here and give us middle class jobs.  I understand the appeal; I really do.  I look at the pay stubs I get and how much the State of Minnesota takes from me every two weeks and I wonder to myself what I would do with that money if I kept it.  And such expenditure would likely be to add fuel to my tank.  The amount that I pay every two weeks would fill up my tank twice at the current price per gallon, and I can appreciate that.

The thing is, it is gasoline.  Gasoline is distilled from crude oil.  Crude oil is an expensive source of energy because there is a finite amount available, and also because of the carbon load that burning it adds to the atmosphere.  As a nation we burn a lot, and we import an incredible amount.  There is no question that our economy is driven in large part by a quest for energy. As an armchair economist, it doesn’t take long for me to realize that there is a need in our society. We are driven to push and grow in order to survive. It is high time to get our butts in gear to find better and more sustainable sources of the energy to propel the economy.

Matt Entenza sees a future for Minnesota as a “Silicon Valley of the New Green Economy.”  We stand on the brink of competition (healthy) with other regions of the country for leadership in developing sources of energy that take advantage of renewable resources.  Matt is fortunate to have a partner in developing these ideas, and his partner is his wife, Lois Quam.

You may have heard of her.  She is an amazing individual, having started out in a small town in Minnesota and worked her way to Fortune‘s list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in American Business.  Now she is starting up a new company with ties between Norway and Minnesota.  Tysvar is the town in Norway from which her ancestors came, and she still has family there.  Tysvar, Norway is in the process of building the world’s largest offshore wind farm, and Quam points out that the Norwegian carbon tax has spurred development of a successful New Green Energy industry in that country. It may be just a coincidence, but Norway is also riding out the recession very well with a jobless rate of 2.6 percent.

And Lois’ vision in creating Tysvar, the company, includes developing solutions for health care as well:

At Tysvar we believe new businesses and organizations are required to make NGE changes happen at scale, therefore, we work as a strategic advisor and incubator of ideas, organizations and people to facilitate and encourage the birth of those new concerns.

In the NGE, we foster ideas and innovation, building on our collective experience to create socially relevant jobs, while designing better ways for governments, companies, unions, and civil society to work together.  At Tysvar we view this work as both important and fun.

At Tysvar, we work with businesses and institutions committed to finding creative and sustainable ways to address our challenges, and our best results come when we collaborate with others for a common solution.  We work best in teams and we value our relationships.

At Tysvar we are also committed to establishing universal health care reform in America. Universal health care is the answer for dependable, affordable health care for all Americans, it is necessary to help rebuild the American economy, and restore American competitiveness around the world.

Business and government have always worked in partnership, and in the current environment, it largely seems as though the partnership has worked to give competitive advantage to large businesses through a peculiar tax structure.  What I see in Matt and Lois is the desire for government to work with smaller, entrepreneurial businesses to benefit society as a whole with better access to health care and jobs while finding ways to de-couple from dependence on oil.

I had mentioned in Part 1 that Matt, despite his height, is not a stellar athlete. At least he wasn’t when he was in high school.  His expression of competition was in debate, and this is how he met Lois.  At a speech contest in Pipestone while they were high school students, Lois won both the competition and Matt’s heart.  She was dating someone else at the time, but something in Matt inspired Lois and they began dating in college.

While Lois was studying as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, Matt studied law and taught legal concepts to secondary school students in England.  They returned to Minnesota, and he graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School.  The complete bio is at Matt’s campaign website, and I encourage you to read it there.

As we sat and I sipped my ginger beer while Matt talked about the future of Minnesota, about his kids and his attachment to both his Mac-Groveland neighborhood and rural Minnesota, I began to share his vision.  Then I realized that I had already shared this vision, but he was able to articulate how to put it into motion.  Government and business, I realized, can actually work together to develop careers that go beyond “jobs.”  Government and business can also work to restore the luster of rural communities.

The industries of sun, biofuels and wind energy are by necessity rural industries.  Family farms can supplement their incomes and stay on their land by adding wind generators.  Solar energy, strong in the summer, can supplement wind.  Biofuels can move far beyond corn ethanol to take advantage of natural processes of creating energy.  In order to achieve such changes, however, Minnesota must turn back to education.

A government that cuts education cuts its future.  Minnesota’s reputation as a state that provides high-quality education is falling.  The universities and colleges are doing their best to maintain their rankings, but costs are rising and so is tuition.  Local schools are fighting a No Child Left Behind policy’s crazy policies which guarantee their failures by insisting on continual improvement while facing funding cuts (and NCLB is self-justifying by laying the blame on schools by withholding funding from those schools which most need support).

Entenza wants to restore the vision of such previous governors as Elmer R. Anderson and Orville Freeman, who partnered with the Legislature to create the Minnesota Miracle.  The funding program worked then, and a new commitment to education will work for the future.

I talked with Matt for an hour, and we looked at our watches and realized that we both needed to get home. We shook hands and walked out the door onto Grand Avenue.  He offered to walk me to my car, which I pointed out was ten feet away and he turned and walked home.  I got into my car, and opened my notebook to realize that I had written very little down of what we had talked about.  I half-seriously considered catching up to him and asking if we would talk again so I could take some notes.

Quiche Moraine needs a budget so I can take a stenographer with me on these little dinners with politicians.

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4 Responses to “Shish on Grand Avenue, Part II”

  1. June 8th, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    Finnigan says:

    Don’t worry about not writing anything down when you talk to Matt Entenza. You can just do what he does–make everything up.

  2. June 9th, 2009 at 5:26 am

    Mike Haubrich says:

    I discussed this sort of comment with Stephanie on Sunday before I published this piece, considering the snarkiness of my reply to the commenter on Part I. She had a good suggestion – if there are so many lies that Entenza is supposed to have made, the we should invite such commenters to actually provide some solid documentation or to back the claims with something more than insinuations. What say you, Finnigan?

  3. June 10th, 2009 at 7:37 am

    BtwoBomber says:

    Why don’t you ask him how he sleeps at night knowing that he spent the ill gotten back dated stock options in a vain attempt to rehab is worthless reputation?

  4. June 10th, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Mike Haubrich, FCD says:

    Same response as to Finnigan.

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