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Mankato retail economy leads outstate rivals

Mankato's retail growth: 'Astounding,' study author says.

By Dan Linehan, Free Press Staff Writer [published in The Free Press, Mankato, MN, 12/20/2011]

At least as far as retail and service sales are concerned, a combined Mankato and North Mankato has joined Rochester, St. Cloud and Duluth to become among the largest trade centers in Greater Minnesota.

A report released Saturday by the University of Minnesota shows Mankato had $904 million in taxable retail and service sales in 2009. That’s about a tenth less than the third-highest outstate city, St. Cloud, at $1.02 billion.

But it’s more than double the fifth-place city of Brainerd, with $421 million.

The report, completed by the U’s Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, calls the cities in the area of $1 billion “Level 1” cities. And Mankato has joined that group.

Even more than all that, Mankato’s growth rate is “astounding,” according to Will Craig, the lead author of the study.

Sales have grown by 123 percent since 1990, nearly triple the next-highest rate of 42 percent, in St. Cloud.

One more piece of data favors Mankato: the average sales per person of $17,153 (the population of 52,703 includes North Mankato.)

That compares to average per-person spending of $10,668 in St. Cloud, Duluth and Rochester.


Among the highest per-capita spending in the state comes from cities in cabin country, like Alexandria ($25,958) and Wadena ($19,569). The authors speculate these figures are driven by vacationers.

Absent a revolution in personal transportation (like skyrocketing gas prices), geography is likely to remain a factor.

Another is the strength of local manufacturing and agriculture.

For the complete Free Press story, see Tuesday's print edition, or go to

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