Minnesota firm looks at challenges facing state’s manufacturing sector

With changing cost structures making domestic manufacturers more competitive, more states are looking at their prospects and thinking about ways to attract new companies.

On May 8, Enterprise Minnesota released the results of its sixth annual statewide survey of manufacturing companies. The consulting firm found that respondents are more confident now than at any time since it started administering the survey 2009, with 36 percent saying they are "very confident" in their company's future and 84 percent saying they are at least somewhat confident. Among companies with more than $5 million in revenue, confidence was expressed by 96 percent of respondents.

The costs of providing health care to employees and complying with government regulations were cited as the top concerns for manufacturers, although companies are also apparently finding increasingly it increasingly difficult to attract and retain skilled workers. This was selected as a key concern by 34 percent of respondents. Enterprise Minnesota noted that there is a significant gap between the metro area and rural parts of the state.

The firm's president, Bob Kill, told the Northland News Center that companies will have to think about how their brand is perceived in the community and what they can do to attract the interest of young people.

"Getting more visible—that's part of why we do this survey," Kill said adding that, "we also promote that manufacturers themselves come out and get more visible."

One issue is that becoming a CNC machine operator or taking just about any other modern manufacturing job requires some education and training. If talented young students are not developing an interest in the profession, companies may be hard-pressed to find qualified candidates for open jobs in the future.