Officials at a small Twin Cities museum hope to reopen in August, after the events of Sept. 11, 2001 forced them to close temporarily. The Minnesota Air Guard Museum had to return its hangars and exhibition space to the Air Force. Our next edition of The Enthusiasts features volunteer Ray Peterson, who has devoted thousands of hours to the museum over nearly 20 years. The museum's displays feature the Minnesota Air National Guard's history, aircraft, and a rare Blackbird spy plane.
Seventy-five years ago, Golden Valley-based General Mills formally came into being. Over the next several months, the company is celebrating three quarters of a century on the New York Stock Exchange. General Mills' Minneapolis roots actually date back to just after the Civil War. Over the years, the company has produced enduring brand names like Betty Crocker, Wheaties and Cheerios. And General Mills has produced a lot of things that have nothing to do with food, including toys, golf shoes, and even a small submarine.
Grocery shoppers are sampling the changes Roundy's has made to 30 Twin Cities Rainbow Foods stores. Earlier this month, Wisconsin-based Roundy's acquired the stores from Fleming Companies in a bankruptcy auction. Roundy's is taking on a market where the competition is expected to keep getting tougher.
Although, Minnesota's job market has been engulfed in gloom for more than two years, we found a bright spot. Demand for people who can repair high-end mechanical watches is high, and graduates of a small watchmaking program in St. Paul tell job-hunting stories that would make a dot-comer nostalgic.
As the spring and summer storm season approaches, the number of Minnesotans who have lost their homeowners insurance has soared, along with premiums. More state residents have to rely on a safety-net insurance program created by the state.
State regulators blasted Xcel energy officials over an auditor's preliminary conclusion that the company's outage reporting system is 'corrupt.' The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission also expressed concern that employees of the Minneapolis based utility are reluctant to speak to the auditors, for fear of reprisal. The PUC voted to continue the investigation and required Xcel to encourage employees to come forward.
In selling his no-tax-increase budget plan, Gov. Tim Pawlenty often points out that Minnesota's tax burden is higher than other states in the region. But despite the higher taxes, Minnesota also has been more prosperous than those states. Some experts say Minnesota's use of tax dollars has strengthened the state's economy. Others question whether that's still the case.
Eagan-based Northwest Airlines is taking heat from laid-off workers, union leaders and even Gov. Tim Pawlenty over executive pay increases. Last week, Northwest announced it was cutting nearly 5,000 jobs due to the war in Iraq. Less than a week later, the company disclosed its two top executives saw pay increases last year totalling nearly $2 million, a year the company lost almost $800 million.
Eagan-based Northwest airlines is launching a campaign to convince union leaders of the need to reduce labor costs. Company officials have told Wall Street they need to cut overall expenses by as much as $1.5 billion. Northwest has already cut almost 12,000 jobs and more than $1 billion in expenses in about two years. But labor leaders at the nation's fourth largest airline say the last round of concessions has bred strong resistance to another round of givebacks.
State regulators have ordered Qwest Communications to give competitors discounts or pay a fine of $26 million. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission action stems from illegal secret deals in which Qwest gave some competitors preferential rates for the use of its phone lines. Qwest officials say the PUC overstepped its authority, but the company's critics hailed the decision.
Job vacancies in Minnesota continued to decline in the last three months of last year. The number of job openings fell by almost one third from the year before. Two years ago, before the recession, the survey found there were more jobs than people looking for work in Minnesota. Now there are twice as many job hunters as jobs.
The latest economic data for Minnesota indicate the state's job market is stuck in neutral. Minnesota's unemployment rate for November came in at 3.9 percent. That's down slightly from October. A separate survey of businesses indicates Minnesota companies are reluctant to start hiring even though many expect sales to pick up.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis is projecting fewer jobs and higher unemployment in Minnesota amid modest regional and national economic growth next year. The outlook for the Fed's ninth district and the U.S. is based on both a statistical analysis and a survey of business leaders in the region. But a top official at the Minneapolis Fed says Minnesota may do better than the forecast.
Experts say the expected bankruptcy of United Airlines will likely put downward pressure on wages at Twin Cities-based Northwest Airlines. Northwest has one of the state's largest payrolls, with nearly 20,000 employees.
Retail sales got off to a strong start over the weekend nationally and in Minnesota. The results from the traditional start of the holiday shopping season trumped projections of lackluster sales. But skeptics say it's too soon to predict consumers will leave their caution in the parking lot.