No matter where you work in Minnesota or the Twin Cities area, your career will have plenty of room to grow. SmartAsset has named Minneapolis the seventh best city in the U.S. for young professionals, and in 2019, WalletHub named Minnesota one of the top 10 states for working moms and dads. In the same year, WalletHub also ranked Minnesota 15th for best economy per state, and if you’re looking to switch things up, we’re the sixth best state for job hunting. (If you decide this is your forever state, Minneapolis is the ninth best U.S. city for retirement, according to WalletHub.)
Day to day, Minnesota’s freeway, public transportation and bike trail systems make it easy to get to work. Surrounding the Twin Cities is a loop made up of I-494 and I-694, and I-35W and I-35E run north-to-south through Minneapolis and St. Paul, respectively. Other roads, such as I-394 and I-94, bisect the metro from east to west, and more freeways form a grid that keeps traffic moving. Whether you drive a car, ride a bike or use our nationally acclaimed public transportation system, Metro Transit, you’ll be able to navigate the region with ease. Indeed, the average Twin Cities resident’s commute is just 25 minutes.
A Jack of All Trades
Looking through Minnesota’s companies on the Fortune 500 list, you’ll see many areas of expertise. Consider UnitedHealth Group (No. 7 on the 2019 Fortune 500), which provides health care coverage and services, or Patterson Cos. (507), which works within the human dental and animal health markets. While we have a bevy of financial companies, including U.S. Bancorp, Ameriprise Financial, Thrivent Financial and Securian Financial Group (113, 245, 368 and 455, respectively), we also have retail powerhouses (Target, 37, and Best Buy, 75) and international shipping agencies (C.H. Robinson, 208). And we have a wealth of knowledge in other areas, including agriculture products, food business and engineering.
For food, General Mills (192) employs more than 38,000 in 30 countries, but you might know the company better for Gold Medal Flour, Betty Crocker, Yoplait, Pillsbury Co., Cheerios and other big-name products. It’s headquartered in the western suburb of Golden Valley, and over the decades, the company has won numerous awards for corporate citizenship and its supportive working environments for military members, the LGBTQ community, minorities and women. A little smaller than General Mills but with a huge product base, Land O’Lakes (232) is another food and agriculture-product company. Besides its iconic butter, the Arden Hills-based company also produces dairy foods and animal feed, and offers agricultural services.
If you’re up for a longer commute, Hormel Foods (No. 337) is less than 90 minutes south of the Twin Cities, stationed in Austin, Minnesota (where a museum honors its best-known product, Spam). Stocking these items, Eden Prairie-based grocery wholesaler and retailer SuperValu landed at No. 201 in 2019 before being acquired by United Natural Foods, Inc.
One food company not on the Fortune 500 list, Cargill, is headquartered in the western suburb of Wayzata and is noted as the largest privately owned company by Forbes. (The company has been knocked out of first place only twice in the 35 years Forbes has compiled its rankings.) Fiscal year 2019 brought the company $113.5 billion in revenue, and Cargill has lately worked on making its products more sustainable and environmentally friendly while also donating $61.3 million to charitable causes worldwide. Besides producing food and bioindustrial ingredients, the company supports agricultural supply chains, metal markets and ocean freight shipping.
Plenty of engineers work to support these companies’ manufacturing lines, and plenty more find jobs at Fortune 500 companies such as 3M (103), Ecolab (213) and Xcel Energy (276) in St. Paul, as well as Polaris Industries (442) in Medina. At 3M, products span such industries as automotive, construction, health care, manufacturing, security, safety and transportation. Familiar brands include ACE, Command, Post-it and Scotch. Ecolab provides water, hygiene and energy services around the world, in the form of food safety evaluations, sanitation processes, pest elimination, natural-resource optimization and more.
Xcel Energy provides residential and commercial energy to eight western and Midwestern states. Its legacy may have begun with fossil fuels, but Xcel has since become a leader in environmentally friendly choices. The company is set to become carbon-free by 2050 and is working on technology that would store direct wind energy. Both projects garnered Xcel a 2019 S&P Global Platts Global Energy Award, now sitting alongside accolades for workplace community and environmental responsibility.
Polaris, an outdoors-loving brand, makes sense in Minnesota: The company creates off-road vehicles, on-road vehicles, snowmobiles, timbersleds (snow bikes) and boats. Outside of the consumer sector, they make vehicles for commercial and military use, too.
Many of these Fortune 500 companies seem to fill a niche, but because of their wide reach and large size, they hire for a variety of needs, from research and development to human resources, marketing and communications, events, corporate responsibility, and more.
Innovation at All Sizes
Innovation and leadership can be found at companies of any size, whether or not they’re on the Fortune 500 list. From boutique operations to publicly traded enterprises, people move job to job, within their industries or into new ones, and learning opportunities in the Twin Cities continue to open doors.
Networking groups play a hand in this, and organizations run the gamut, for any career stage, location or industry. If you’re in a creative line of work—or looking to break in—consider groups like CreativeMornings or the Lab Mpls. Pollen Midwest is a less industry-specific group that speaks to those interested in nonprofits and social justice.
You can see community support for new ideas and solutions in the annual Minnesota Cup, the largest statewide startup competition in the world. Nine categories include education, tech, and youth, with participants gaining mentorship, seed funding, publicity and more. Winning businesses from 2019 include Abilitech Medical, which creates the first powered orthotic shoulder-assisting device; Voyager Campervans, which makes rentals for the eco-friendly, adventurous traveler; and Sanos Nutrition, which sustainably produces proteins for animal feed.
If you want a flexible, shared working space, the Twin Cities have options for those looking beyond the home or office. The Coven and the Riveter are specifically created for women, with the Riveter also welcoming allies. The Coven creates a space for non-binary and trans people, and both places frequently update their workshop calendars. New Rules, another community workspace, is designed to help small businesses with a collaborative environment and equipment rentals. Above Finnegan’s Brewery and Taproom, in downtown Minneapolis, is a creative workspace called the FINNovation Lab. Beyond educational events, the team helps with business development and offers a nine-month social entrepreneur FINNovation fellowship.
Many of Minnesota’s most famous products have now grown into large businesses and brands: Aveda cosmetics, Andersen Windows, Red Wing Shoes, Dairy Queen, Green Giant, Tonka Trucks and, of course, the Medtronic pacemaker. One of our newest inventions, the Livio AI hearing aid from Starkey Hearing, was even named one of Time magazine’s 100 best inventions of 2019. Whether you want to follow in our inventors’ footsteps or forge a path all your own, resources abound in the Twin Cities.
While Twin Cities locals tend to claim the biomedical engineering company Medtronic as one of our own—its operational headquarters are in the suburb of Fridley—it has a network that extends to more than 150 companies and 90,000 employees. When the COVID-19 pandemic rocked the world, Medtronic showed up not only as a leader in the state, but globally.
A little under two weeks after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 an international health emergency, Medtronic donated $1.2 million in cash and products (respiratory filters, centrifugal blood pump systems, ventilators and more) to organizations including the Centers for Disease Control Foundation and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. By the end of March, the company had committed another $10 million to the cause and shared its ventilation design so that manufacturers around the world could help meet the demand. (It had already ramped up its own production.) Through July 31, the Medtronic Foundation has promised to match donations to COVID-related needs made by employees and retirees at 2:1, and it is helping employees find ways to volunteer, too. Together, these efforts build on Medtronic’s decades-old mission, summed up by co-founder Earl Bakken: “We are restoring people by the millions to full life.”
Minnesota Fortune 500 Companies
7 United Health Group
75 Best Buy
113 U.S. Bancorp
192 General Mills
208 C.H. Robinson
232 Land O’Lakes
245 Ameriprise Financial
276 Xcel Energy
337 Hormel Foods
368 Thrivent Financial
442 Polaris Industries
455 Securian Financial Group
Minnesota Companies on Deck
507 Patterson Companies
Best Corporate Citizens
These six Minnesota companies made Corporate Responsibility Magazine’s 2019 list of the 100 Best Corporate Citizens. This looks into human rights, governance and climate-change impact.
3 General Mills
37 Hormel Foods
67 Best Buy
99 Xcel Energy
Most Ethical Companies
In 2019, the Ethisphere Institute compiled 132 international companies into a list of the World’s Most Ethical Companies. The Twin Cities has six of them—almost 5 percent of a list spanning 21 countries and 51 industries.