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Trekking ahead: Enterprise Minnesota looks into future of manufacturing

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Enterprise Minnesota has been watching the course of manufacturing in the state.

The business consulting organization revealed the findings of its fifth annual State of Manufacturing survey at Alexandria Technical and Community College (ATCC) on Monday, May 20. The forecast? "Tempered confidence."

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"This community has played a very significant role regionally," said ATCC President Kevin Kopischke.

Explore Minnesota President and CEO Bob Kill addressed a handful of manufacturing moguls at ATCC. While not much was aimed specifically at Alexandria, Kill delivered a message that affects companies throughout the region - and the world.

"Canada and China are top prospective markets," Kill said. "Canada's not a big market for a big company, but it's a huge market for a small company." Kill noted that China isn't quite the contender it used to be.

The most challenging thing Kill sees in the way of growing manufacturing is getting legislators out to experience companies first hand. He said some legislators are listening, acknowledging it's apparent Senator Amy Klobuchar is invested in Minnesota's manufacturing future, evidenced by her repeated touring of Alexandria facilities.

"Of all the people in the nexus, that's our challenge going forward," Kill said.

THE SURVEY

Eight major concerns were identified from poll results (listed in order of highest importance): the costs of health care coverage (67 percent), uncertainty in Washington surrounding the budget and taxes (67 percent), government policies and regulations (58 percent), ability to attract and retain qualified workers (30 percent), lack of qualified workers (24 percent), costs of employee salaries and benefits (19 percent), increased competition from foreign sources (17 percent) and managing supply chain relationships (10 percent). Health care has ranked at the top of the list since the survey began in 2008.

Kill said 49 percent of those polled identified a lack of technical training and experience as the greatest need when seeking new employees.

There are 7,400 manufacturers in Minnesota, comprising 13 percent of jobs and 16 percent of wages. The average weekly wage for a worker in manufacturing is $1,120, yet there are 4,900 jobs available. There is a 50/50 split when it comes to the number of companies in the metro area versus Greater Minnesota.

Data is collected through hundreds of phone surveys and 20 focus groups with manufacturing executives. Executives' views on the economy are polled and translated into an overall outlook at the manufacturing business sector.

For more information, visit www.enterpriseminnesota.org.

DeyCrystal Dey Crystal Dey is a staff reporter for the Echo Press. Originally from Minnesota's Iron Range, Dey worked for newspapers in North Dakota, Florida and Connecticut before returning to her home state to join the Echo Press in October 2011. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Staff Reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter at @CrystalDey_Echo.

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Crystal Dey

Crystal Dey is a staff reporter for the Echo Press. Originally from Minnesota’s Iron Range, Dey worked for newspapers in North Dakota, Florida and Connecticut before returning to her home state to join the Echo Press in October 2011. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Staff Reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter @Crystal_Dey.

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