Enjoy this guest post from SWIF Program Officer Cheryl Glaeser.
I imagine that if each of us was asked to think of someone who works in manufacturing, it wouldn’t take much time to come up with a list; not just one person, but a list. My husband, two of my children, my son-in-law, and three siblings work for companies that do at least some form of manufacturing…just in my immediate family. According to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, manufacturing in southwest Minnesota accounts for over 18 percent of all jobs. Our region boasts a strong industrial base with varied manufacturing from food to high technology and everything in between. Consider the things we need and use every day…we literally can’t live without manufacturing.
The Southwest Initiative Foundation has sponsored regional focus groups for Enterprise Minnesota’s State of Manufacturing® for the past few years. The 2012 survey was recently completed and interested business, education, and economic development representatives attended a roll-out of the results in Redwood Falls.
Here are a few key points that stood out in my mind from the presentation, many of which resonated with those in attendance:
- Good news first: 82 percent are confident from a financial perspective about the future for their companies.
- The top four concerns for manufacturers were: health care coverage, government regulations/policies, taxes, and finding and retaining the workers they need.
- Health care costs are by far the top concern—as it has for four years in a row—and is strongly tied to recruiting new workers.
- Nearly six of 10 executives say it is difficult to attract qualified labor.
- Succession planning is important to companies, but the interest is not only for executive levels. There is growing concern about replacing all levels of employees with long-term knowledge/skills as they retire.
- 69 percent say recycling/reuse is important to their manufacturing processes and 18 percent plan to somewhat increase “green” initiatives. Larger firms are doing it because it makes economical sense and smaller ones because they feel it’s the right thing to do.
It’s encouraging that financially speaking, our manufacturers are confident about the future. I hope that decision makers and thought leaders from across our region and the state take the time to review the information gathered through this survey. The executives of manufacturing companies have offered valuable insight. Let’s use it!