Industry Clusters and Freight Infrastructure

Minnesota has a diverse and changing set of industry clusters. Photo: Shutterstock

Dynamic and innovative industry clusters are critical for the success of a regional economy. As a critical mass, industry clusters promote efficiencies that individual businesses or industries cannot. But questions remain: Which industries are growing? Does Minnesota’s freight infrastructure meet industry needs? How do clusters affect transportation systems and local communities?

To fill this information need, TPEC researchers study Minnesota’s industry clusters and engage regional business and policy leaders. Recent work has focused on the medical industry cluster, with particular focus on impacts of the pandemic. The result is a valuable knowledge base to inform freight infrastructure planning and investment decisions.

Medical Device Industry Hot Spots and Trucking Times in the Twin Cities

Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport (MSP) plays a vital role for the medical device industry supply chain—which means surface transportation linkages to MSP are also crucial.

Using geographic information systems analysis, TPEC researchers identified medical device industry “hot spots” in the Twin Cities metro and conducted a case study of one of them: the City of Plymouth. They then overlaid hot spots onto maps of major freight corridors and assessed trucking times to MSP for key companies.

Hot spots can be especially vulnerable to travel time delays on key freight corridors and can contribute to heavier traffic on them, the researchers say. By identifying hot spots, it may be easier to target transportation investments where they would be most useful for freight routes.

Read more about the research in a TPEC report on Minnesota’s medical industry cluster.

Ensuring Minnesota’s Competitiveness: Pandemic-Influenced Priorities for Infrastructure

The pandemic is having big impacts on supply chains. The TPEC Program convened state and national experts in an October 2021 forum to discuss the implications for Minnesota’s infrastructure and economic competitiveness, with a focus on the state’s medical device and health care industries.

Presenters discussed air cargo needs at MSP; Minnesota’s “brand” as a global authority in medicine; the state’s freight plan, including infrastructure for electric trucks; and the “bioinnovation” economy—the medical device industry combined with the food and agriculture industries.

A TPEC report incorporates highlights from the forum and recent TPEC research. The report also includes recommendations to address challenges and opportunities stemming from the pandemic.

Minnesota Supply Chain Forum: Transportation and Consumer Considerations in the Age of COVID-19

Transportation and supply chains have become a central focus for Minnesota legislators and policymakers. In a January 2022 forum, CTS and the TPEC Program convened experts to examine the businesses and supply chains that are key to Minnesota’s economy, with attention to the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The forum was organized in response to interest from Representative Frank Hornstein, chair of the Minnesota House Transportation Finance and Policy Committee.

Forum participants included representatives from both the private and public sectors as well as the research community. Topics included network resiliency, port back-ups, the trucker shortage, and pending federal legislation. Read coverage of the forum.

Story Maps

The Amber Roads of Grain analysis unveils how technological, political, and market shifts in the grain supply chain impact the way local producers and wholesalers navigate their local freight networks—a network that spans road, rail, and barge infrastructure.

The Global Airfreight Networks and Regional Competitiveness story map displays findings from the modeling of Minnesota's evolving medical supply chain. Airfreight is an important factor that contributes to the success and future of the medical device industry, and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is a dominant force in medical commodities.

Completed research