King: 'You have to play to win'
King spoke for nearly an hour in the Minnesota West Community and Technical College Fine Arts Auditorium following opening remarks by WREDC chair Ron Wood and Worthington Mayor Alan Oberloh. A social and dinner preceded the meeting's program.
In describing the ingredients needed for launching Cirrus Design, King cited a "game-day plan" that included the following: have a lot of fun, change the world and make a lot of money. He also detailed the design criteria for the company's aircraft.
"The question I have for businesses is, 'What is the yardstick by which you measure everything you do?'" King asked. "For us, it's a very high customer value equation.
"Who do we see as our competition? It's what rich guys do with their money. My thinking is out of the box, and yours needs to stay that way if it isn't already."
King displayed estimates that showed Cirrus Design contributes more than $65 million to the Duluth economy. Yet, he said, the city and the state of Minnesota don't seem to value the company, noting the aftermath of a critical article that appeared in the local newspaper.
"It's our job as economic development people and business people to protect our own," he said.
Wood, who also serves as president and CEO of Minnesota West, spoke for about 20 minutes about WREDC's "behind the scenes" role in working with public and private entities to stimulate economic development.
"Much of what is accomplished by WREDC is not seen by the general community," Wood said. "We're a catalyst that I think helps keep things moving."
Wood also stressed the importance of working with existing businesses as well as potential new ones.
"There are companies this year that would've left this community, but we helped keep them here," he stated.
In detailing the efforts in recent months to create a bioscience industrial park in Worthington, Wood hailed numerous people and organizations for their work. Among those he credited were WREDC Manager Glenn Thuringer, the City of Worthington and Nobles County, the Blandin Foundation, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development and District 22B Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake.
"What started as a germ of an idea expanded itself out, and we just kept that moving," Wood said. "I feel the story about bioscience is just at the beginning."
Cirrus Design may have located in Duluth in 1998 and grown dramatically in its seven years since, but King said he still refers to the current situation as "a pretty good start." He suggested Worthington parties begin anew immediately.
"It's easy to get into a rut, isn't it?" King said. "My challenge to all of you is tomorrow morning, get up and think about what the day holds. Get up with an eye on what you can do to hone your skills to better serve your customers.
"My hope for you is to set out to change the world, have a lot of fun and make a lot of money."