By Tim Krohn
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — Mankato is nice to its manufacturers.
The city is one of five in the state named as “Great Places to be a Manufacturer in Minnesota,” by Enterprise Minnesota Magazine.
The cities were honored for their support of manufacturers through partnerships with education, redeveloping land and offering lower-interest financing.
The Mankato area was noted for it Economic Growth Collaborative showcasing the region’s manufacturing career opportunities to high school students and for the ways Minnesota State University and South Central College are working with local manufacturers to offer the right skills those companies are looking for.
The honor also noted work done by Greater Mankato Growth to actively visit with manufacturers and ask them for ways they can help them.
Mankato joins St. Paul, St. Cloud, the Iron Range and Douglas County in the top five list.
Each year the Mankato area hosts a Tour of Manufacturing, allowing students, teachers, job seekers and parents to visit 12 manufacturing companies.
Barb Embacher, vice president of Greater Mankato Growth, said the tour is changing industry perceptions.
“I like seeing students’ reactions, because a lot of students today just don’t know what’s available to them in their home communities,” Embacher said. “They may just think about getting that big job in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, and until they take the tour, may not realize there are really good-paying jobs right here in their backyard.”
Tom Kammer, a manufacturing consultant at SCC’s Center for Business and Industry, told the magazine that regular outreach to local businesses is the biggest part of his job at the college.
“Being a community college, we take a lot of pride in making sure that these companies get what they need.”
The St. Paul Port Authority was cited for its work at keeping and attracting jobs. Since 1962, the authority redeveloped 1,200 acres of land into 22 business parks with 500 companies and 17,000 workers. The authority also gave a $500,000 forgivable loan to Brazilian-owned Gerdau Steel for a new metal casting facility, provided it maintains 330 workers.
The Iron Range Rehabilitation and Resources Board was picked out for helping direct state funds to improve thousands of mining and timber jobs.
Douglas County, in and around Alexandria, has several manufacturers that make automated-packaging machines and equipment.
Douglas Machine, Aagard, ITW Heartland, Massman Automation Designs and the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission formed an association to promote their industry, recruit and train workers. The manufacturers have agreed to not take workers from one another, among other collaborative efforts.
The magazine is online at www.enterpriseminnesota.org.
Enterprise Minnesota consults with medium size and smaller manufacturing companies to help them compete and grow profitably and serves as the “voice of manufacturing” to raise the industry’s profile.