This week we had the privilege of welcoming Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and a trade delegation of Minnesota business, universities and scientific and medical institutions to Stockholm, Sweden. Among the fifty states, Minnesota boasts the highest number of Swedish Americans (almost 500,000). The family ties, business relationships, scientific and university exchanges, and cultural linkages between Minnesota and Sweden combine to create a strong and growing connection. The Governor’s visit gave us the chance to frame some of the key opportunities Minnesota and Sweden have to work together to advance common interests. The values shared between Sweden and Minnesota are so many: a commitment to cultivating the next generation through great education; the endless possibilities provided by scientific innovation, R&D and global commerce; a love for the great outdoors and a shared Northern topography; and even Ice Hockey – Governor Dayton is a former Division I Hockey player (a goalie), and Sweden just won the Ice Hockey World Championships!!
The very first event we held for the Governor was a Diversity Dialogue with the Somali community in Sweden, and we had a mix of people around the table from a variety of fields. The U.S. Embassy has started a new initiative we call “Diversity Dialogues,” which are an opportunity for us to gather Americans and Swedes to discuss issues related to diversity in both our countries. Last October, when I travelled with the Swedish King and Queen to Minnesota, I broke off from the delegation to meet with representatives from the American Refugee Committee and the “I am a star” program – a Minnesota-based community project that highlights Somali-American contributions. This time the Somali community in Sweden, as well as NGO’s and government officials interested in their welfare, had the opportunity to hear from the Governor of the U.S. state with the most Somali-Americans and to hear about Minnesota’s experience with assimilation of the Somali community. The Governor’s incredibly thoughtful perspective on what has worked and what still needs work in Minnesota was really embraced by the participants in our Diversity Dialogue, and he was able to place his perspective in a context of Minnesota’s 150-year plus tradition of welcoming immigrants. The Diversity Dialogue was followed by a large reception, where many representatives of Swedish government, business, NGO’s, and academia met the Governor and the Minnesota delegation. We were deeply honored that Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, Swedish State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Frank Belfrage, and the next Swedish Ambassador to Washington Bjorn Lyrvall attended, demonstrating the significance they place on the Minnesota – Sweden relationship.
The following day included a seminar on investing in Minnesota, hosted by the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, during which the Governor and Minnesota Commissioner of Economic Development Katie Clark presented the benefits of investing and manufacturing in Minnesota to an audience of prospective Swedish investors. This event was followed by a remarkable presentation at the Karolinska Institute (KI) by KI’s President, Professor Anders Hamsten, on innovation collaboration with Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota Medical School. The visit included a tour of KI’s incredibly impressive new facilities at their campus in Stockholm. The terrific Swedish businessmen Jacob Wallenberg and Peter Wallenberg Jr. then hosted a CEO lunch for Governor Dayton, who discussed the business climate and opportunities in Minnesota with a group of CEOs from leading Swedish companies with investments in Minnesota and elsewhere the U.S.. A key topic of conversation was the potential global impact of the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, and Governor Dayton, a former US Senator, was able to offer a prescient set of perspectives on the benefits to both the US and Europe, if such an agreement is consummated.
Very importantly, the lunch was followed by the signing of a Sweden-Minnesota Memorandum of Understanding on Bioenergy by Governor Dayton and State Secretary Daniel Johansson. The MOU follows a series of discussions on ways in which to advance bioenergy projects among government, academia, and business, including a roundtable that coincided with the King and Queen of Sweden’s visit to Minneapolis in October 2012. Collaboration in bioenergy holds such great possibilities, and the U.S. Embassy is so pleased to support the public-private cooperation represented by this MOU.
Governor Dayton’s visit to Stockholm advanced key American values, celebrating multiculturalism; the US and Sweden as immigrant-rich countries; and the endless opportunities to create jobs and share prosperity through global commerce and business connections.