May 6, 2016 | 3 p.m.
By Suzanne McInroy, Director of Communications, and Monique Kleinhuizen, New Media Strategist
As the executive director of the Economic Club of Minnesota, Kristin (Jacobson) Robbins ’90 has many opportunities to network with national and world leaders in economics. This year the club has hosted talks by Karl Rove, former deputy chief of staff and senior advisor to President George W. Bush; Ian Bremmer, president and founder of the Eurasia Group; Brian Cornell, chairman and CEO of Target Corporation; and Ambassador Michael B. Froman, United States Trade Representative, among others.
But before all of this, Robbins started out as an economics and political science student at Bethel. “The need for people of faith to be engaged in business is just as strong today as it was when I was at Bethel,” she says. Robbins remembers reading “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” during her days at Bethel. “But at Bethel today, you get to explore business and faith in a real way,” she says.
Between Bethel and her current job, Robbins worked in Washington, D.C., as a legislative director for U.S. Sen. Harris W. Fawell (R-IL), where she focused on trade, education, and labor issues. She also worked in the Business and Economics Division of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). She served as the executive director of Minnesotans for School Choice and the Partnership for Choice in Education, leading the coalition that worked for education tax credits during Governor Arne Carlson’s administration in the 1990s. She has also served on the state Commission to End Chronic Homelessness and on the Department of Education’s committee to revise state math standards.
Robbins started the Economic Club of Minnesota in 2008 with former U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy (R-MN), former U.S. Rep. Tim Penny (DFL-MN), and former U.S. Rep. Bill Frenzel (R-MN). "The congressmen recognized that many other major cities, including New York City, Chicago, Detroit, and Washington, D.C., had long-established economic clubs, which provided a forum for business and policy leaders to meet and discuss economic issues. They decided they could create a similar, bipartisan forum in Minnesota and pulled me out of my 'motherhood retirement' to start the Club," she explains. She remembers that the first year they "weren't sure if anyone would show up. We didn't have nametags or seating assignments and we just had a punchbowl on a table where people could throw in money and make change for themselves.”
Now an average of 350 to 400 people meet monthly for Economic Club of Minnesota events featuring prominent business and policy leaders. “We expected the Club would provide opportunities for Minnesota leaders to engage with national and international leaders on global issues. The unexpected benefit has been how we have changed global leaders' perceptions of Minnesota. We already know how great it is here, but most of the national and international leaders we bring in have not visited the state before. The only thing they 'know' is that it is cold and we elected Jesse Ventura as governor,” says Robbins."Once they meet with business leaders and students and take tours of various companies, they realize that Minnesota is a world-class place with a highly-educated workforce, a culture of innovation, great amenities, and natural beauty. We put Minnesota on the radar screen of international leaders."
Robbins holds a master’s in economics from Washington University in St. Louis and she has served as a director of the Banyan Community, a community development organization in the East Phillips Neighborhood of Minneapolis, for 10 years. She lives with her husband, Brent, and their three daughters in Maple Grove, Minnesota.