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GreenSeam brand seeks to propel region to next Silicon Valley

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MANKATO -- With a new brand and the support of hundreds of businesses, the south-central Minnesota and northern Iowa region is set to become the next Silicon Valley for agricultural business, local leaders say.

GreenSeam, the new identity for a project launched by Greater Mankato Growth two years ago, was officially unveiled at a celebration Monday at Riverfront Park. About 500 people representing at least 300 groups from banks to Monsanto to South Central College to the state Pork Board attended the celebration.

GreenSeam is the result of about nine months of rebranding work with the Minneapolis firm Capsule. The original project, called Project Agriculture Business Epicenter, was launched in November 2014 to market the roughly 28-county region as a growing hub for agricultural commerce.

"The way we position ourselves and market this region is our collective responsibility," Sheryl Meshke, co-president and CEO of Associated Milk Producers in New Ulm, said just before the green logo was unveiled.

The name is intended to represent the green lushness of rolling farms as well as the green of economic prosperity, said Jonathan Zierdt, president and CEO of Greater Mankato Growth.

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"The natural rainfall that blesses us in this region positions us as one of the most sustainable producers in the entire world," he said. "Green had to reflected in the name."

"Seam" is intended to represent a strong unity of natural resources and people. "A seam joins us; it brings us together," Zierdt said.

The logo's design could represent to some people crop rows, conservation terracing, a leaf or an electronic circuit board. The "G" or "L" that can be seen in the logo can represent both global and local, just as the shades of colors can represent the diversity of groups that are part of the effort.

The 28-county region has about 9.5 million acres of crop production, 9,500 livestock operations, and 19,300 crop operations, as of 2012 data. Total sales are around $11.7 billion in the region, which has an overall economic impact of $14.825 billion on industry purchases, according to an analysis by GMG.

Sam Ziegler, who became director of the project last year, said it was exciting to see the wealth of ideas converge. A committee of about a dozen people worked together on the logo and name. The 131 company with the GreenSeam logo flying at Monday's event represent vast support for the effort, Ziegler said.

When Project ABE launched, GMG committed to invest about $370,000 over the next three years to work on building the region's agricultural business prominence. About $250,000 of the additional funding was to come from the chamber's reserves with the remaining generated through new revenue and external funding.

The goal within five years is for people to want to locate here, much the same way the name recognition of Silicon Valley or the Research Triangle draws companies and motivated entrepreneurs, Ziegler said. "People around the world would go, 'I want to be part of manufacturing that has a touch with ag or technology that has a touch with ag or I want to be an attorney that knows a lot about ag, I want to locate in southern Minnesota,'" he said.

For John Considine, director of regional business intelligence for GMG, success will be when companies put GreenSeam on their letterheads for proposals and daily business.

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That will show how the brand "helps people associate with agricultural success and really builds out their own strengths," Considine said.

Partnerships are key to help educational institutions meet the needs of the evolving workforce, said Brian Martensen, a member of the GreenSeam steering committee and the dean of College of Science, Engineering & Technology at Minnesota State University.

"There's all these careers that are connected to ag that you wouldn't necessarily think when you first hear the word ag," he said.

Going forward, the education team of GreenSeam has three goals: serving a pipeline from high school to higher education to industry, determining the biggest industry needs, and supporting and fine-tuning existing programs based on needs and student interest.

Part of that is working to partner with regional educational institutions such as Riverland Community College, South Central College, Minnesota State University and Southwest Minnesota State University.

Expanded opportunities for partnerships will help companies like Monsanto, said Aaron Kramer, site lead for Redwood Falls company.

"I think we need to rely on other companies that maybe haven't been our normal partners to take that next step into the digital age," he said.

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