Minnesota: Exports Are Expanding In The Land Of The Lakes

Minnesota companies generated more than $19 billion in sales in 2016 from exports of agricultural, mining and manufacturing products.

By the BF Staff
From the July/August 2017 Issue

The Minnesota Trade Office recently awarded the 2016 Governor’s International Trade Award to six Minnesota companies that have been successful exporters.

Minnesota Economic Development

The companies were honored during the World Trade Month luncheon at the Hilton Hotel in Bloomington. They were selected for developing and growing a significant part of their business from exports, for increasing or maintaining jobs in Minnesota to support international sales, and for developing novel approaches for competing globally.

The 2016 winners are Digital Content LLC of Edina, Crown Iron Works Co. of Roseville, DCM Tech Inc. of Winona, Great Plains Processing of Luverne, Ralco Nutrition Inc. of Marshall and Top Tool Co. of Blaine.

Additionally, the Trade Office named five other companies winners of the Governor’s Foreign Direct Investment Award, which recognizes significant investment in Minnesota by foreign-based companies.

Minnesota Economic Development“These Minnesota companies illustrate how exporting or attracting foreign direct investment can help businesses compete globally,” said Commissioner Shawntera Hardy of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). “I congratulate them for their global achievements and thank each of them for being models that can inspire other Minnesota businesses to pursue international trade.”

International trade is a key part of the Minnesota economy, with Minnesota companies generating more than $19 billion in sales from exports of agricultural, mining and manufactured products last year. Minnesota businesses exported 1,044 different products to 207 countries in 2016. Exports support almost 120,000 jobs in Minnesota.

Here are some highlights of the 2016 Governor’s International Trade Award winners:

Digital Content LLC, Edina, MN. Selling under the name Big John Games, the company designs and develops video games. It sells to customers in the United States and 28 other countries via Nintendo and its distributor networks. The company had exports of $2.2 million in 2015, which accounted for 80 percent of its sales.

Crown Iron Works Co., Roseville, MN. Crown Iron started as a Minnesota blacksmith shop in 1878. In 1948 it diversified into food processing by introducing the “solvent extractor” for processing oilseeds such as soybeans. Today, Crown has more than 400 oilseed plants in 50 countries. Half of the world’s soybeans are processed with Crown equipment. Crown export sales were $42 million in 2015, representing 57 percent of its total sales.

DCM Tech Inc., Winona, MN. Founded in 1974, DCM designs and manufactures machine tools and surface-grinding equipment. DCM’s customer base is primarily in North America, but its market has grown to include 19 countries in the past 15 years. Most recent export sales were $1.02 million—14 percent of total sales.

Great Plains Processing, Luverne, MN. Great Plains Processing manufactures and ships animal feed supplements to 42 countries, accounting for 65 percent of its total sales. In the past three years, international shipments have grown 9.2 percent. In the same period, the company’s workforce has grown from 12 to 19.

Ralco Nutrition Inc., Marshall, MN. Ralco is a third-generation family business with distribution in 25 countries. The company provides advanced technologies in animal nutrition, animal health and enhanced plant performance products. In the past three years, the company has added six national markets and expanded exports to more than $7 million (8.8 percent of total sales). Full-time employment has grown from 135 to 188.

Top Tool Co., Blaine, MN. Founded 1966, Top Tool is a precision metal-stamping manufacturer. Beginning with its first export sale in 2010, the company has become an active exporter. Over the past three years, Top Tool export sales have risen from $251,000 to $922,000.

The following companies were named winners of the Governor’s Foreign Direct Investment Award: Cirrus Aircraft Corp. of Duluth (Zhuhai, Guangdong, China), Global Kinetics Corp. of Minnetonka (Melbourne, Australia), La Costeña/Faribault Foods in Faribault (Ecatepec, State of Mexico, Mexico), Moventas in Chanhassen (Jyväskylä, Finland), and Sappi Fine Paper North America in Cloquet (Johannesburg, South Africa). All five businesses are owned by foreign parent companies.

HGA Architects and Engineers of Minneapolis was also recognized, receiving a Governor’s Certificate of Commendation for collaborating with the Minnesota Trade Office on many activities. HGA has hosted many diplomatic events over the years, including a gathering with U.S. ambassadors from Asia and an event with more than 70 leaders from Latin America and South America, both in 2015.


Minnesota companies exported $4.8 billion worth of agricultural, mining and manufactured products in the first quarter of 2017, a 5 percent increase from the same period a year earlier, according to figures released today by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

The increase was the first quarterly growth for state exports since the fourth quarter of 2014. U.S. exports were up 7 percent in the first quarter.

“Strong export activity is helping to drive a Minnesota economy that is healthy and growing,” said DEED Commissioner Shawntera Hardy. “Along with our traditional markets, state companies increasingly are finding export opportunities in places like the Middle East and the Australia-Pacific region.”

State exports to Asia grew 9 percent to $1.6 billion in the first quarter, while exports to North America were up 2 percent, also reaching $1.6 billion. Exports to the European Union and to Central and South America were flat.

Sales climbed 48 percent to $162 million in the Australia-Pacific region and 17 percent to $106 million in the Middle East, led by strong sales growth in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Canada was the largest national market, with sales of $953 million (down 4 percent).

Other countries in the top 10 were Mexico ($617 million, up 11 percent); China ($559 million, up 13 percent); Japan ($291 million, up 15 percent); South Korea ($225 million; up 37 percent); Germany ($192 million; up 6 percent); Belgium ($176 million); and the UK ($136 million, up 2 percent).

Optics, medical instruments led all categories with sales of $883 million, up 2 percent from a year ago.

Other major exports were machinery ($817 million, up 1 percent), electrical machinery ($638 million, up 3 percent), vehicles ($338 million, no change), plastics ($315 million, up 13 percent), aircraft, spacecraft ($170 million, up 59 percent), food byproducts ($137 million, down 1 percent), meat ($100 million, up 36 percent), stone, plaster, cement ($89 million, up 20 percent) and pharmaceuticals ($87 million, down 1 percent).

Major gains in aircraft, spacecraft exports (up 59 percent) were driven by growth in sales to New Zealand ($32 million, up from $150,000) and the Netherlands ($31 million, up 806 percent).