Our Board of Directors met Tuesday in Benson and what a beautiful day to visit this community. It certainly helped that we held the meeting at the Golf Club—it was a little distracting for board members who had a post-meeting tee time, but sitting in the porch with the windows open…wow! What a great community asset!
We started our day with a special tour of CASE New Holland, which is the largest employer in Swift County with just over 400 hourly and 50 salaried employees. SWIF made a loan to Tyler Case company in 1995, which later was acquired by CNH, so this is a great example of how much impact our programs can have many years down the road. And, these employees drive from a more than 30-mile radius around Benson to work in this plant.
They are hiring for a number of key positions and expressed what we’ve heard before from other southwest Minnesota companies—they always need welders. We were amazed at how efficiently the crews moved sprayers and cotton pickers down through assembly. A recent $27 million investment in the Benson plant has helped them increase production to 10 sprayers a day, and with demand, they’d like to be doing even more.
During the community lunch, we heard some great updates from leaders in business, organizations and schools in the Benson area. Many noted how many great jobs are available in the area, but how the community feels challenged to market Benson to young people or people who moved away from Benson but now might be looking to come back.
The success of the agricultural economy is clearly present in this community, too, which leaders say are drawing young people. We were informed of a plan for a commuter rail transportation system at the risk of NOT including Benson, which would be very challenging for the new and expanding ag-related businesses.
It was fun to hear about connections like the Benson Area Community Foundation, one of SWIF’s 24 community foundation partners; Kid Day, a program run every summer for youth that SWIF has awarded grants to in the past; Chippewa Valley Ethanol which connects to the renewable energy work SWIF has done; and other businesses who have received SWIF loans.
And, a special thank you to the Benson Kiwanis for allowing us to combine our lunch meetings—we hope they’ll invite us back to give a full SWIF update sometime soon.
If you are familiar with Benson, what stands out as this community’s greatest assets?