With 17 Fortune 500 companies—five of which are among the most ethical companies in the world—and a recent ranking as the No. 1 state for achieving the American Dream, there’s simply no better place to build a career.

Minnesota once again entered 2016 in an enviable position among states: Our unemployment rate remains among the lowest in the nation, the Twin Cities metro leads the nation for jobs, and the state reported a healthy $1.2 billion surplus that should staunch sharp budget cuts.

The Twin Cities and surrounding suburbs truly represent a strong, competitive place to start or further your career, no matter the path or industry. In fact, Minnesota boasts more Fortune 500 headquarters than just about any other state. Some 17 Minnesota companies made this year’s Fortune 500 list of the largest public and closely held corporations in the United States based on revenue.

What’s more, six of those 17 local businesses moved up in rank from the previous year, while three remained unchanged, and eight dropped. Minnetonka-based healthcare giant UnitedHealth Group once again ranked highest among Minnesota companies, coming in at 14th with $130 billion in revenue.

An outdoor shot of United Health Group's building.Image by Steve Niedorf/Greenspring Media

Additional Minnesota companies on the move in the rankings include 3M up three spots to 98th; U.S. Bancorp up two places to 138th; Ameriprise Financial up two spots to 247th; Xcel Energy up two into 255th place; Hormel Foods up one to the 310th spot; and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans up two spots to 333rd.

Three Minnesota companies are clearly on deck to break into the famous 500 should their incredible growth continue the way it has for the past few years: Valspar, Polaris Industries and Securian Financial Group. Polaris jumped 47 spots this year, landing at 574; Securian is up 39 spots ending at 602; and Valspar is up 25 spots at 570.

Given the prevalence of leading companies it shouldn’t be too surprising that Minnesota is billed as the state that offers residents the single best chance of achieving the quintessential American Dream, according to a recent study conducted by Estately.

Each year millions of people come to the United States in pursuit of the American Dream. Their goal is to work hard, get a job, buy a home, put their children through college and build a better life for their families. It’s a noble goal, and one that isn’t always easy to achieve—that’s why Estately set out to find where it is most attainable.

To do that, the firm sought out which U.S. states offered the best chances for economic and educational success, home ownership, and political participation, as well as had high numbers of foreign-born people who have already achieved the American Dream. The final rankings were determined by grading each of the 50 states using eight indicators and averaging the results. Here are Minnesota’s individual rankings, which when averaged, earned it the single best state to achieve that dream:

Hard Work: Rank 11

The average number of hours worked per day by employed people (Source: BLS America Time Survey)

Attainability of college degrees: Rank 10

Percentage of residents over age 26 with a bachelor’s degree or higher (Source: U.S. Census)

Home ownershipRank 2

Rate of home ownership 2009-2013 (Source: U.S. Census)

Foreign-born residentsRank 23

Percentage of population born in other countries (Source: U.S. Census)

Median incomeRank 9

The median income of each state (Source: U.S. Census)

Income equalityRank 11

Gini Index for median income 2013 (Source: U.S. Census)

EmploymentRank 5

The state’s unemployment rate (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Voter turnoutRank 3

Percentage of voters who participated in elections between 1980-2012 (Source: U.S. Elections Project)

Diverse Industries

Long ago, agriculture helped Minneapolis earn a reputation as the “Flour Milling Capital of the World,” or “Mill City.” Today the state is still known for its export of agricultural products, as well as for being the birthplace of companies like Pillsbury and General Mills, both of which originated in St. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis.

General Mills, whose headquarters now reside in the Twin Cities suburb of Golden Valley, still carries this legacy. The company purchased Pillsbury in 2001 and is now one of the world’s largest food companies with 35,000 employees worldwide and global net sales of $17.6 billion. It is known nationwide for its familiar products, brands and characters, such as Gold Medal Flour, Wheaties, Cheerios, Green Giant and Betty Crocker.

Agricultural icon Cargill, which produces and markets food, agricultural, financial and industrial products and services, also calls the Twin Cities home. Founded in 1865, the Wayzata-based company has grown massively, now employing 153,000 people in 67 countries and boasting sales of $120.4 billion, ranking them first (for the 29th time in the 30 years of the list’s existence) on Forbes’ 2015 list of the largest privately owned companies. That same year Cargill’s charitable efforts reached nearly $58 million in 57 countries, with the money directed toward nutrition and health, education, and environmental stewardship.

Cargill’s success is indicative of the large role Minnesota plays in America’s agricultural industry, along with other Twin Cities companies like Supervalu, a grocery industry leader; Hormel, a food company made famous by Spam; and Mosaic, the world’s leading producer and marketer of concentrated phosphate and potash.

Today many Minnesotans still have jobs related to agriculture, from actual farmers to marketers of agricultural goods. Industry-leading companies such as Land O’Lakes, Nash Finch (a major food distributor which was acquired by Michigan-based Spartan Stores) and CHS are all recent Fortune 500 companies with ties to this rich part of our state’s heritage.

While it is strong, agriculture is not the only big industry here. With an excellent educational system and a population with some of the highest levels of health insurance in the country, the Twin Cities boasts a healthy and well-prepared workforce across all industries.

Most of the state’s Fortune 500 companies are located in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, including 3M, Best Buy, UnitedHealth Group and Xcel Energy. And many companies that call Minnesota home are admired around the world, such as Target, the national discount retailer that donates 5 percent of its income to support education, social services and the arts. Fortune ranked Target 39th in its list of the World’s Most Admired Companies in 2016, followed by St. Paul-based St. Jude Medical at 40.

An outdoor shot of Best Buy's Headquarters on a sunny day.Image by Best Buy

3M, formerly Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co., is another long-admired local company that produces close to 75,000 products, including inventions such as Scotch tape and Post-it notes, sold in nearly 200 countries. The St. Paul-headquartered company accrued $30.3 billion in worldwide sales in 2015.

Another recognizable retailer based in the Twin Cities is Best Buy, a Fortune 500 company whose headquarters lie in Richfield. The consumer electronics company’s stores see 600 million shoppers per year, not to mention some 1 billion online, and was named one of the Best Places to Work by the Human Rights Campaign (2014).

Big City, No Hassles

While Minneapolis-St. Paul may have a big-city economy, the region doesn’t feature big-city hassles—namely long commutes, as the average travel time for residents is just 25 minutes. From a bird’s eye view, the Twin Cities have several major arteries that keep residents moving: Interstate 94, running east and west through both downtowns; bypass I-494 and 694 that create a large “loop” around the metro area; and I-35E and I-35W that run north and south through Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Living and working in the Twin Cities, commuters have several transit options that continue to increase every year. Metro Transit, the area’s public transportation authority, operates more than 200 bus routes and the METRO Blue Line that runs from the Mall of America to downtown Minneapolis. There’s also the Red Line, which connects Apple Valley to the Mall of America (as well as the Blue Line), and the more recent Green Line, which connects downtown Minneapolis with downtown St. Paul.

Plus, the Northstar Commuter Rail Line provides a way for residents in the northern suburbs to reach downtown Minneapolis. Several regional bus companies also provide rush-hour service to and from communities to both downtown areas. Most commuters split their time between shuttle, bus or METRO service, and park-and-ride ramps.

An MnPASS eases traffic directly west of Minneapolis along both I-394 and 35W, the north-south highway cutting through Minneapolis. Plans for expanding other public transportation systems continue, including additional METRO lines and commuter rail lines.



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