by Louis Hoglund, Managing Editor

We had to stop and think about it for a minute, but it was a bit of a revelation to be reminded that Gov. Tim Walz is the first “out state” governor we’ve had since Rudy Perpich in the 1980s.  

Gov. Tim Walz, speaking at the recent Minnesota Newspaper Association convention.

Walz, the Democrat who took office in January, is a Mankato area resident–via Nebraska, his home state.

After hearing him speak at the recent Minnesota Newspaper Association convention recently, it was refreshing to listen to a guy who seemed to have a grasp of rural issues. 

Granted, a city like Mankato is not Erhard or Pelican Rapids–in terms of its “rural” character.  

But the fact is, our recent governors–Arne Carlson, Jesse Ventura, Tim Pawlenty and Mark Dayton were undeniably metro, suburban political figures.  It has been three decades since we’ve had a governor from outside the Metro Area.

In a few of his statements, Walz really seemed to have a genuine, common sense approach to governing.  He also seemed to have the right idea of how–and when–government and the public sector can work effectively with business and the private sector. 

An example: His comments on rural broadband and access to high speed internet in rural areas. 

Paraphrasing his comments, Walz said the private sector can economically build the main “highways” but government needs to step in to financially assist with the “on and off ramps” that bring technology to outlying rural areas–off the main road.  

He likened it to the federal government’s “Manhattan Project,” where the public sector worked hand-in-hand on the atom bomb to win World War II.  You could add NASA to the discussion, which was a unique public-private partnership. It was a collaboration that put a man on the moon, and indirectly spawned most of the technology we have today. 

Another example: Agriculture.  Government, through funding of scientific research and other programs, has helped family farms sustain as “small businesses.”

Politically, we hear too much rhetoric from conservatives to rely on private business to drive innovation and advancements. But there are many goals that can–and should–be achieved through  balanced  government-industry collaboration. 

“Free markets will expand broadband access…to a point,” said Walz. He understands that the private sector can’t afford to run access to all  the sparsely  populated. That’s when government steps in to assist with the “final mile,” said Walz.  

Among his other thoughts about government and the free markets, Walz acknowledged that government is in a sense, a “monopoly.” 

If that’s the case, Walz said the state of Minnesota must strive to be “the best monopoly it can be” in terms of cost effective governing and efficient delivery of services. 

Walz is still in the “honeymoon” phase of his governorship, so time will tell.  

But we certainly agree with Walz that future progress and economic vitality should be the goals of both the private and public sectors.