Changing Economies

Stearns County recognizes the changing technologies and economies that can influence the County’s job growth. Rather than speculate on how or when these trends will impact the future of Stearns County, this plan highlights a few topics for future consideration in long-range plans.


  1. Support educational institutions and programs that enhance the County’s labor force’s skills to adapt to changing technologies and markets.
  2. Monitor changing markets and adjust zoning regulations accordingly to accommodate new uses.
  3. Program and prioritize transportation investments that address changing technologies and transportation needs.
  4. Support innovative business models and new markets that enhance the County’s economy.
  • eCommerce: Retailers in general have been impacted by the rise of online commerce, competing markets and behavioral change. In fact, online retail now constitutes a larger share of shopping in the U.S. This impact has played a role in a shrinking market for big-box retailers; resulting in some big-box stores closing or reducing the size of their building’s footprint. Other impacts include a growing number of trucks transporting goods to residential homes. Heavier truck traffic may have impacts on County and Township roads.
  • Circular Economies: More Minnesota companies (e.g., 3M, Cargill, General Mills, Medtronic and Target) are embracing a circular economy. Circular economies are closed looped sustainable systems. Products and energy created on site happens efficiently and renewably, creating a circular flow of resources. For example, reusing a by-product (e.g., steam) to create a sustainable energy source is one of many close looped technologies. A more simplistic example of a circular economy includes the use of manure from feedlots to help fertilize farm fields. Other growing markets may include specialty crops that are being grown and processed on site, such as hops to hop-pellets, milk to cheese, and apples to cider.
  • Autonomous & Electric Vehicles: Over the next 30 years, ride-sharing, autonomous vehicles and increased access to public transportation are anticipated to change how future generations move about the region. The biggest unknown is the advancement of autonomous vehicle and its impact on the economy from how we get to work and transport goods. We do know that the demand for electrical vehicles are growing in popularity. The electrification of the vehicle fleet will also have impacts on the County. As more people switch over to hybrid-electric or fully electric vehicles, there will be greater demand for charging stations in rural areas.
  • Automation: Many industries (e.g., manufacturing and food processing) are finding business efficiency through the use of machines and technology to make processes run on their own without manpower (automation). This is also experienced to some degree in the agricultural sector as larger equipment is becoming more automated. This advancement in technology has reduced the number of jobs in certain sectors; however, there is a growing demand for labor in the technology/automation sector.

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