In the Know column: Manufacturing provides largest payroll in Douglas County

The manufacturing industry is a dynamic segment of Minnesota’s economy, and an integral part of Minnesota’s economic development strategy.

By Nicole Fernholz

Manufacturing is the backbone of Minnesota’s economy, thanks to the sector’s strength, versatility, and innovation. In part celebration and part information, Minnesota Manufacturers Week was created to recognize the economic importance of this sector. This week is just around the corner, occurring the week of October 1-7, 2020 to highlight the industry.

Typically, during this week, local manufacturers open their doors to students, job seekers and the public to see for themselves what is being made in Douglas County, and the opportunities the industry puts forward. Unfortunately, tours are not available this year, but it is important to recognize the impact manufacturing has not only across the State, but locally as well.

The manufacturing industry is a dynamic segment of Minnesota’s economy, and an integral part of Minnesota’s economic development strategy. We can see this locally by the number of jobs created:

  • Manufacturing has the largest total payroll among business sectors in Douglas County, providing $210 million in wages. This equates to $64,000 as the average salary to a person employed in manufacturing.

  • Manufacturing is the second highest job creator in the region – creating 23% of the jobs. The industry provides over 3,500 highly skilled, high paying jobs, which significantly contribute to our area’s high standard of living and economic vitality.

We depend on a strong, growing, and competitive manufacturing industry. Statewide, manufacturing is the engine that powers our economy. Manufacturing added $52.7 billion to Minnesota’s economy in 2019, representing the second-largest contribution (14%) to the state’s gross domestic product (GDP) by any industry.


  • Minnesota has 324,000 manufacturing jobs statewide, which is 13% of all private-sector jobs.

  • According to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), the average manufacturing job supports another 3.24 jobs in other segments of Minnesota’s economy. That’s another 709,000 jobs. Combined then, manufacturing supports 1,033,000 jobs, or 41% of total employment in the state.

  • Manufactured exports brought $21 billion into the Minnesota economy in 2019.

  • Of Minnesota’s 16 Fortune 500 companies, 44% operate in manufacturing, including 3M, CHS, General Mills, Land O'Lakes, Ecolab, Hormel Foods, and Polaris.

Although the Tour of Manufacturing could not be held this year, I encourage you to look into the opportunities manufacturing offers in our area and the companies that create those opportunities. Our region is expected to see significant employment growth in manufacturing – much of that growth seen in positions such as machinists, welders and CNC programmers.
There is so much being made in Minnesota – and much of it is in your backyard!

Nicole Fernholz is the director of the Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission. In the Know is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.

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