The Free Press, Mankato, MN

October 21, 2013

Our View: Manufacturing tour helps make connections

Why it matters: An economic development strategy emphasizing manufacturing can pay long-term dividends


The Mankato Free Press

---- — A local effort to promote and provide information on the area’s manufacturing industries and the impact on the overall economy is likely to help overcome one of the industry’s biggest challenges: finding enough skilled workers.

On Saturday the Economic Growth Collaborative of South Central Minnesota will offer the public a tour of several area manufacturing plants. Details can be found at tourofmanufacturing.com. The tour is similar to the Parade of Homes events, offering open houses from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the public to come and visit and learn about the industries as well as career opportunities.

So far, lack of available workers with the right skills seems to be the biggest gap in the growth of the manufacturing industry. But with five institutions of higher education in the region, there’s plenty of opportunity for workers young and old to get the training they need to land jobs in this growing sector.

Manufacturing has always been a vital part of the U.S. economy. Unlike many other industries -- where money trades hands from one local industry to the other — manufacturing brings in revenue from sources outside the region, outside the state and outside the country.

A healthy manufacturing industry helps build a solid wage base and ultimately helps build community wealth.

Manufacturing’s impact in the state and region is strong. In Minnesota, manufacturing contributes $37 billion a year to the state’s economy, about 15 percent of the entire state gross domestic product. In the nine county region of South Central Minnesota, manufacturing makes up 23 percent of all private sector jobs and 28 percent of all private sector payroll. In 2012, about 20,000 people in the region worked in manufacturing and each manufacturing job supports another 1.9 jobs in other industries, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Wages in manufacturing in Minnesota average $835 per week, about 20 percent higher than other industries.

Manufacturing has changed over the years. Jobs are not so much the get-your hands-dirty, build-and-grind type, but rather usually involve operating computers and other high technology equipment in cleaner environments.

The Mankato region is home to several longtime, strong manufacturing companies, including MTU Onsite Energy, Crysteel Manufacturing, V-TEK, Lindsay Window & Door, Express Diagnostics and others.

Manufacturing continues to be an important part of the South Central Minnesota economy. Getting the word out will be good for workers looking for rewarding careers and the companies themselves.