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Varilek to Lead Minnesota Economic Development

South Dakota could have changed history if it had dropped Kristi Noem after one unproductive term in Congress and replaced her in 2012 with smart Matt Varilek. Instead, voters embraced Noem’s “sneering contempt” for education and experience and reëlected Noem.

Varilek didn’t sit around moping; he took his talents to offices that welcomed his work. For his latest gig, Varilek has now earned Governor Tim Walz’s nod to run Minnesota’s economic development:

On Thursday, Gov. Tim Walz announced that he has appointed Matt Varilek commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

Varilek currently serves as president of the Initiative Foundation, a Little Falls-based community development financial institution focused on Central Minnesota. Before that, he served as chief operating officer of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

…In a news release, Walz praised Varilek for “strengthening the economy and communities of Greater Minnesota.”

Varilek, who’s slated to start the new gig June 20, will replace temporary commissioner Kevin McKinnon, who’s been serving on an ad-hoc basis since March [Dan Niepow, “Matt Varilek to Lead Minnesota’s Economic Development Agency,” Twin Cities Business, 2023.05.25].

South Dakota had an opening for a new chief at its Governor’s Office of Economic Development; Governor Kristi Noem just filled it with quiet GOED insider and Watertown neighbor Chris Schilken. Varilek probably has the easier job, since Minnesota’s economy already works so much better than South Dakota’s. Plus, he’s working for a governor who won’t require him to speak in counterfactual hyperbole.


  1. Jake 2023-06-05 16:08

    South Dakota just simply can’t afford to keep highly-skilled people (who greatly exceed the state official’s IQ’s they have to work for here) so they naturally migrate to a state that recognizes their worth, puts them to work and pays them as they should. !! Were we GOP in SD to operate this way, there simply wouldn’t be enough of the moolah to influence those WE want influenced (with the aid and taxes, low wages paid by us) to those who support this state. Everyday hard-working people led to believe in conservative dogman as interpreted by US!

  2. larry kurtz 2023-06-05 18:37

    Way back in 2012 while waiting for my dates outside a matinee showing of The Avengers at the Elks Theater in occupied Rapid City and who shows up with the real press? After introductions, Mr. Varilek acknowledged reading my humble blog so its author asked whether upon reaching Congress he’d work to have cannabis removed from Schedule 1 and be regulated similar to the way alcohol is. He said not without more evidence that it is any less of a social risk than alcohol is.

    There is that.

    Great movie. It so inspired interested party that a visit with Bill Fleming at his office was had.

  3. Frank Kloucek 2023-06-05 18:40

    Matt Varilek is a class act. He would have been an excellent US Congressman from South Dakota!

  4. Jake 2023-06-05 22:00

    Frank, sadly, in our state, those brightest and most capable are tossed aside for someone who looks”mighty prty on a horse!” (and pouty lips)
    -so there we are and go.

  5. Jenny 2023-06-05 22:18

    MN is used to getting SDs best and brightest. We don’t need a move to MN marketing campaign like SD does. When you have well-paying jobs (at the top for healthcare), it’s pretty easy to lure young college graduates to come here.

  6. grudznick 2023-06-05 22:30

    Is this Mr. Varilek fellow that young gentleman who was a pigmoid that ran in the elections a while back? I expect he did not sink to the level of despair that Mr. Kloucek, the ineptest in the legislatures ever, sunk. But it was bad. Real bad.

  7. leslie 2023-06-06 01:36

    What does Chris Shilken mean:

    “The work that I have gotten to do with GOED over the last five years has been life-changing for myself and for people across the state.”


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