Minnesota's vast wealth of natural resources, especially the state's extensive timberlands and fertile prairie, was the basis for Minnesota's early industrial development. In the late 19th century, Minneapolis was the nation's flour milling center. By the early 20th century, canning and meat packing were among the state's largest industries.

While food and food products remain an important part of the state's economy, the state's economy has diversified significantly from these early beginnings. Today, the state looks primarily to high technology industries such as computer manufacturing, printing and publishing, scientific instrument manufacturing, and fabricated metal production, for revenues.

The total value of shipments by manufacturers in 1997 exceeded $78 billion. Industry is concentrated in the state's southeast region, especially in the Twin Cities area. Minnesota was the headquarters of 13 Fortune 500 companies as of 2000.

Earnings of persons employed in Minnesota increased from $93.8 billion in 1997 to $101.5 billion in 1998, an increase of 8.2%. The largest industries in 1998 were services, 26.3% of earnings; durable goods manufacturing, 12.6%; and state and local government, 10.8%. Of the industries that accounted for at least 5% of earnings in 1998, the slowest growing from 1997 to 1998 was state and local government, which increased 2.9%; the fastest was transportation and public utilities (6.5% of earnings in 1998), which increased 9.5%.