With a few weeks to go before Thanksgiving, the state’s economy is on track to return to growth.
But for the most part, Minnesota’s population growth is coming from outside the Twin Cities.
That’s thanks to the resurgence of the U.S. economy and the arrival of a new tractor from Ford.
The state’s unemployment rate has dropped from 9.4 percent in November to 7.9 percent now, a rate that is still well below the national average of 12.6 percent.
And that is good news for people who need jobs, such as truckers and trucking operators.
For truckers, the tractor has been a boon.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation estimates the tractor is the largest single source of employment in the state.
And the truckers are happy about it.
The number of trucks carrying freight in Minnesota has grown by an average of 10 percent each year since 2011.
That has helped fuel the construction of new highways, and it has also made it easier for the state to get trucks to its communities.
“It’s definitely a great addition to the market, because the trucks are making more money than ever before,” said Mike Reis, a trucker from Lakeville, Minn.
He’s been driving the Ford for six months now, and he expects to make $12,000 to $14,000 a year in trucking this year.
He said he will continue to use his tractor to work, and the money he makes is going to go to his wife and two children.
Ford is also investing in Minnesota, including investing $1 million to build a new production facility in Duluth.
The company is building the plant with a partner that also makes the Ford Focus, and Ford is expecting to hire 150 people in the coming months.
That investment is good for the trucking industry in the Twin States, said Doug Johnson, president and chief executive officer of Ford Trucks in Duluk, Minas.
“We’re a growing market, and we know we can grow in the future.
And we have a long way to go in our industry to achieve that,” Johnson said.
Ford has also announced it is buying the Minnesota State University’s Truck and Engine Research Center, the same facility where it developed the new Focus.
“They’re bringing in new talent, and they’re going to be able to help us in the research and development arena,” said Johnson.
The new Ford will be built in the company’s own facility in St. Cloud, and a contract has been signed to build the tractor and parts to be delivered to the state for free.
“The focus for us is to build our manufacturing operations here in Minnesota,” said Jim Fischler, the director of Ford’s Minnesota operations.
Ford expects to spend about $2 billion over the next decade to expand its operations and add to its production capacity, including new facilities and technology.
For example, the company is expanding its facility in Minnesota’s largest city, Duluth, with about 100 new workers.
The tractor is also the engine that powers the new F-150 pickup that will be available for sale in the spring.
Ford plans to begin production of the truck next year and the company will have a fleet of at least 100 tractor-trailers by then.
It’s a big step forward for the Minnesota economy.
“This is great news for the industry and a win for the people of the state of Minnesota,” Johnson added.