County Profile

Economic Development

Pine County offers the best of both worlds. Its location on the I-35 corridor makes for ease of access to all the attractions and markets of the Twin Cities and Duluth. At the same time, its attractive small towns and rolling, wooded countryside represent the best of rural living. It is a splendid place to work and live.

Location and Access

Pine County is located in East Central Minnesota, just north of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. Less than an hour from MSP International Airport, it straddles Interstate 35 only 90 minutes from the Port of Duluth on Lake Superior.

Major Industries & Employers

The largest employer in the County is the Grand Casino Hinckley, located in the city of the same name. GCH is owned by the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and is a popular destination for fun-seekers from the Twin Cities. Because of that and other outdoors attractions in the county, 16.7% of the workforce is engaged in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector.

Four major healthcare systems serve the county – Essentia, Fairview, Gateway Clinics, and FirstLight. While no large provider dominates, the sector employs a significant number or residents.

Manufacturing employers are typically smaller companies, with a strong presence of the precision metals industry. Atscott Manufacturing, Minpack, Advance Design, Team Powdercoating, DAKA and others are residents of County industrial parks.

Population & Workforce

2014 Estimated Population: 29,196

Due to its location on the interstate corridor and its proximity to the Twin Cities, Pine County has regularly been one of Minnesota’s fastest growing counties.

2013 Census Bureau data shows a civilian workforce of 14,055 in Pine County.

Healthcare and social services, as an industry, employs the highest number of county residents at 1,358 – almost 20% of the workforce of paid employees. The County enjoys a strong healthcare sector, with four major health systems operating facilities here.

The manufacturing sector is well-represented in Pine County, with 10.2% of the workforce and a number of small but innovative companies calling the County home. This compares favorably with the Twin Cities, where 12% of the workforce is in the goods producing sector.

For the past 20 years, increasing numbers of Pine County residents have been leaving the County for work each morning. In 2013, according to the U.S. Census estimates, of the 11,929 workers living in the County, 6,785 (or 57%) commuted outside the County for employment. Significantly, almost 1,400 of those commuters worked in ‘goods producing’ occupations. These commuters represent a significant recruiting pool for companies moving into the County and looking for employees.


Interstate 35 runs for nearly 50 miles down the entire length of Pine County. East-west highways feeding the Interstate include MN 61, MN 23 and MN 70, the latter of which crosses the border into Western Wisconsin.

Because of this corridor, MSP International Airport is barely an hour away, with flights nationwide and globally. More locally, the Field of Dreams Airport in Hinckley offers a 2,754-foot runway and hangars for use by private aircraft.

The St. Croix Valley Railroad runs from North Branch northward to Hinckley, where it connects with Burlington Northern and Santa Fe line, giving the County a national reach in terms of rail service.

Quality of Life

 Pine County is known and valued for its affordable housing options, its vibrant communities and its high quality of rural life. The three local school systems are all smaller districts with small class sizes and personal attention to student needs.

The County is famous for its lakes, rivers, state parks and state forests. St. Croix State Park and Banning State Park offer multiple outdoor opportunities year around, and the Nemadji, St. Croix and Chengwatana State Forests all provide county residents with a chance to get close to the natural world. The lakes and rivers are too numerous to mention and offer boating and fishing recreation to residents and non-residents alike.

Major Cities and Populations

Askov                                  364                                      Kerrick                                 65

Brook Park                          139                                      Pine City                         3,127

Bruno                                  102                                      Rock Creek                     1,628

Denham                                35                                      Rutledge                             229       

Finlayson                            315                                      Sandstone                       2,871

Henriette                               71                                      Sturgeon Lake                   439

Hinckley                           1,800                                      Willow River                       415


Colleges and Universities

Pine Technical and Community College, a comprehensive community College and a component of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, is located in Pine City. It offers certificates, diplomas and degrees in technical disciplines, as well as the transfer associate in arts degree. With strong programs in manufacturing, information technology, business and accounting, PTCC is a regional source for skilled workers and a partner to many businesses in the county.

2017 Pine County