Manufacturers prepare for a stormy ride because of COVID-19

Minnesota’s manufacturers share broad long-term confidence about the future prospects of their companies, yet they are strapping in for a tumultuous COVID-19-related economic ride.

That’s according to Enterprise Minnesota’s 12th annual State of Manufacturing survey that was released April 20 to a digital crowd of manufacturers and other key stakeholders of the industry.

Rob Autry, founder of Meeting Street Insights and Enterprise Minnesota’s pollster, and Bob Kill, president and CEO of Enterprise Minnesota, shared this year’s data and fielded questions from the virtual audience.

“Small and rural manufacturers look like they are going to receive the most punitive effects of this downturn, depending on their industry and products,” Kill said. “What we are seeing is similar to 2008-09, and back then, manufacturers led the economy out of the recession. I expect our economic growth to be driven by manufacturing again this time around.”

The complete slide deck and recorded presentation are available on Enterprise Minnesota’s website,


What is unique about this survey, Kill said, is that interviews were conducted before and after President Trump’s National Emergency Declaration (COVID-19) on March 13.

Autry’s team interviewed 400 manufacturing executives between March 2-23. Respondent titles included owners, CEOs, CFOs, COOs, presidents, vice presidents, and managing officers. The survey has a margin of error of +4.9%. Researchers completed 58% (N=234) of the interviews between March 2-12 and 42% (N=166) between March 13-23.

Among the results:

  • 46 percent of post-COVID interviewees now expect the country to slip into a recession, while only nine percent thought so in the pre-COVID interviews.

  • Post-COVID interviewees also expect to experience a decline in gross revenue (23 percent, in contrast to just 6 percent pre-COVID) and profitability (19 percent post, 8 percent pre-COVID).

  • 26 percent now expect to invest less in capital expenditures, as opposed to 14 percent pre-COVID.

Smaller manufacturers expect to take the biggest hit, according to the survey.
Enterprise Minnesota is an ISO 9001:2015 certified consulting organization that works with small and medium-sized manufacturing enterprises to help them compete and grow profitably.

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