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From Aerospace to Apples: MN Businesses Brace for Climate Change

Volatile weather, such as an early freeze, can hurt the apple harvest in Minnesota. (Aaron Hawkins/Flickr)
Volatile weather, such as an early freeze, can hurt the apple harvest in Minnesota. (Aaron Hawkins/Flickr)
February 19, 2018

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Businesses around Minnesota as varied as those in aerospace and apples say they're feeling the effects of a changing climate.

A new report from the advocacy group Business Forward highlights how six climate disasters with losses exceeding $1 billion have occurred in the state since 2012, and spurred severe weather warnings from many of Minnesota's Fortune 500 companies.

Factories, farms, restaurants and hotels are among those reporting the impacts of drought, rising temperatures and volatile weather on their operations.

For Jim Watkins, co-founder and managing director of Sociable Cider Werks in Minneapolis, the concern is the quality of the apple harvest.

"It seems like hailstorms are becoming more frequent in Minnesota,” he points out. “We buy a lot of Minnesota apples and a bad year, a big hailstorm, can have a material effect on the harvest here. So, we're sourcing from kind of pan-Midwest now, to kind of diversify that risk a little bit."

The report notes a changing climate could mean Minnesota loses some of its best competitive advantages, such as its model-growing climate for corn and ready access to the Upper Mississippi River and Great Lakes.

And the report suggests policies that support investments in cleaner energy sources could bring economic opportunities to the state.

The report says entrepreneurs, executives, investors and small business owners are modifying their approaches to location, construction and asset insurance – all to brace for the effects of climate change.

And Watkins contends policy decisions need to consider the bottom lines of Minnesota businesses.

"Reframing the conversation within the context of what the impacts are on business interests, and not just ones that are so intimately tied to agriculture, can kind of help refocus the conversation from one that is pro-environment or pro-business,” he states. “I don't think they have to be mutually exclusive."

According to the report, more than 600 Minnesota companies are working with Businesses Forward on climate change and energy issues. Many have expressed support for the Clean Power Plan and other renewable energy policies.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MN