The Next 150

Even as Minnesota celebrates its past, we wanted to look to the future. So on the occasion of the state’s sesquicentennial, we consulted the experts, followed the evidence, and came to some surprising conclusions about the next century and a half. Just try proving us wrong.


We will be alone and childless. (And that’s not just your mother talking.)

Get out the Hank Williams records. The Minnesota State Demographer’s office projects that by 2035, some 31 percent of all Minnesota households will have just one person. At the same time, the number of childless couples is on pace to grow 21 percent by 2015.

We will be rich.

If our population continues to grow 1 percent annually while our economy grows 2 percent every year, Minnesotans’ per capita income should double in 36 years, says Art Rolnick, vice president and director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Extrapolating from our 2006 per capita income, we should each be pulling down about $161,462 in 2158. Drinks are on us.

We will be Utah (politically speaking).

In 2004, George W. Bush scored big in the country’s fastest-growing counties—the exurbs—winning them by a robust 21 points. The Twin Cities, meanwhile, is ranked first in the country in its rate of exurban growth, and third in the number of people already living there. Seeing red yet?

We will be immortal.

This winter, Doris Taylor and her team of researchers at the University of Minnesota announced that they had reanimated a dead animal heart. If the future sounds like the theme song from Fame—we’re going to live forever—we may be the first to sing it.


We will be commuting to Rochester.

Last year, Fast Company magazine ranked Rochester as one of 20 cities “on the verge of becoming a fast city”—a boomtown. Why? Because from 1997 to 2006, the Rochester area added jobs more than twice as quickly as the nation and Minnesota as a whole. In 2001, Rochester’s per capita income overtook the state average and for the past five years its population has grown 36 percent faster than the rest of the state. The Mayo Clinic is still expanding and its new partnership with the University of Minnesota on biotechnology is expected to light a fire under the state’s bioscience industry. It’s no wonder why the U decided to open its newest campus there last year.

We will make little more than Spam—and still do fine.

Minnesotans won’t be making T-shirts anytime soon—or any cheap goods. In fact, the only manufacturing we’ll do in the future is of products where quality matters more than price, says state economist Tom Stinson, like pacemakers or high-end computer parts, as well as things consumed within the U.S. itself, like meat. “We won’t be importing Spam from Taiwan,” he says.

We will kidnap Canadians to work here.

Once the baby boomers retire, there will be plenty of jobs for everyone else—too many, in fact, given the size of the generations succeeding them. And in few places might the competition for workers become more fierce than in Minnesota, says Stinson, given our growing economy and, um, climatological disadvantage. “I don’t think there are a lot of 16- or 17-year-olds in Southern California thinking, ‘When I turn 18, I’m moving to Minnesota!’” says Stinson. “But there are more than a few here thinking the other way around.”

China will take over the world—with our help.

Where’s the largest Chinese student population in North America? At the U of M. Since 2001, a U institute has also held courses for Chinese students in China, and the Carlson School’s executive MBA program was the first authorized by the Chinese government to be implemented in a Chinese uni­versity. Can you say ?

You will.


We will lead the U.S. to victory in the next great Olympic sport.

When you think great athletics program, you think Carleton College, right? No? Maybe you should, because a movement is underway to make Ultimate Frisbee, yes frisbee, an Olympic sport—and Carleton is to discers what the University of Kansas is to basketball. Ultimate Frisbee is the largest intramural sport on campus, and Carleton’s teams are perennial national championship winners. Bonus: The Olympic team recruited at Carleton would probably rarely use the word “stoked” in interviews.

We will invent the future of entertainment.

Someone has to do it—and Minnesotans have a track record of creating the Next Big Thing: Bob Dylan reinvented popular music, F. Scott Fitzgerald reinvented the novel, the Guthrie essentially created regional theater, and the Walker Art Center has emerged as a tastemaker in the world of performing arts. And no, innovative as they are, Grumpy Old Men and Louie Anderson don’t count.


We will still be talking about the weather—because it will be kicking our butt.

What does it mean that last August a drought was declared in 24 counties at the same time another part of the state was experiencing a devastating flood? It means we’re in Trouble with a capital T. Where rain falls—and how much—will be a serious challenge going forward, says climatologist Mark Seeley of the University of Minnesota. “When we get rain now, we get it in thunderstorms—too much too fast,” he notes. “And then we don’t get rain for prolonged periods, exces­sively drying the landscape. Look at the Mississippi—it’s either in flood stage or down to a trickle.”

Our state parks will become little more than vacant lots with fire pits.

Minnesota ranks 33rd nationally in the percentage of its state budget dedicated to state parks, even while the portion of the state’s general fund directed toward the environment has shrunk in five years from 2.2 percent to 1.2 percent—a combination that may have the effect of returning us to nature, whether we want to or not.

Gophers will be our only wildlife.

Open spaces are vanishing fast in Minnesota—at present rates, a million acres will be tamed in just the next 25 years. Hunters and anglers, whose license fees and lobbying efforts have helped keep these spaces wild, are also disappearing. In 2003, the Department of Natural Resources hired its first employee dedicated to boosting the number of hunters, affirming a recent national survey that showed declining youth participation in nearly all outdoor activities.

We will not resemble Kansas.

Some global warming experts have suggested that Minnesota will eventually resemble present-day Kansas: hot, dry, swarming with evangelicals. Not so, Toto. Seeley says Minnesota’s landscape is much more robust and diverse than that of Kansas, and it’s the landscape’s interaction with the atmosphere that creates climate. Also, he notes, “There’s one thing that won’t change: solar radiation, which, at this latitude, is distinctly different than in Kansas.” There really is no place like home.

The headlines: 2158

Los Angeles Vikings win first Super Bowl! * Teleporting takes off; Minnesotans still prefer Volvos * I-94 to be renamed Ventura Highway * Target Airlines off to poor start, bull’s-eye logo blamed * 3M faces lawsuits after invisibility suit implicated in burglaries, presidential impeachment, controversial Vikings Super Bowl victory * Garrison Keillor’s voice box revived; listeners ask, “Who is lutefisk?” * Sid Hartman retires