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Health costs, taxes, new regs are top manufacturer worries

The production floor at Lakeshirts in Detroit Lakes. TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO

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 last month at Alexandria Technical and Community College.

The forecast? “Tempered confidence.”

“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 the college and 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 firsthand.

He said some legislators are listening, saying it’s apparent that U.S. Sen. 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 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).
  • 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, making up 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 Twin Cities 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.

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Article written by Crystal Dey of the Alexandria Echo Press

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