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 speckled with many recreational amenities represent the best of rural living. It is a splendid place to work and live.
Location and Access
Pine County is located in Region 7E within 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 south of 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 this establishment and the surrounding recreational opportunities, the accommodation and food service industry provides 26% of the local jobs and the retail trade provides nearly 13%.
Four major healthcare systems serve the county – Essentia, Fairview, Gateway Clinics, and Welia. While no large provider dominates, the sector provides 11% of the local jobs.
Pine Technical & Community College is one of the fastest growing technical & community colleges in the state and not only provides valuable workforce training opportunities, but also provides 10% of the job base along with the local school districts.
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 local industrial parks and provide 4% of the job base.
Population & Workforce
The estimated population is 29,579 (2019 Census) and Pine County is the 37th largest county in the state.
2019 Census Bureau data also shows a civilian workforce of 16,505 in Pine County, which steadily has increased over time.
For the past 20 years, increasing numbers of Pine County residents have been leaving the County for work each morning. In 2018, according to the U.S. Census estimates, of the 12,193 workers living in the County, 4,885 (or 40%) commuted outside the County for employment. 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.
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.