When people think of the jobs in the manufacturing industry, they typically focus on a short list of production occupations, such as assemblers or welders. That makes sense. Nearly 60 percent of all occupations in manufacturing are classified as production in Southwest Minnesota.
But that also means a little more than 40 percent - or 16,320 manufacturing jobs in the region- are not in production. These include a mix of well-paid occupations, ranging from sales and marketing to construction and other trades.
It's been a turbulent few years for manufacturing in southeastern Minnesota, as two recessions in a decade alternately pounded and pummeled the industry and triggered substantial job losses during the economic downturns.
The good news: In the calm that followed the storms job growth in the manufacturing industries is returning, albeit at a slower pace than job growth the region has seen across all other industries.
Even though Northeast Minnesota has the smallest number and lightest concentration of manufacturing jobs statewide, it remains a dominant player in a key industry.
And what the region lacks in job quantity is offset by high quality.
Paper manufacturing is a regional strong suit and (despite some significant job losses over the past few years) is still ripping right along in this part of the state.
It's fair to say that the seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan area is the epicenter of manufacturing in Minnesota.
The 4,105 manufacturing companies in the region supply 162,716 jobs. That's about 53 percent of all manufacturing jobs statewide.
In the metro region, the average annual wage in manufacturing was $69,680 in 2013 - 17 percent higher than the industry’s average annual wage for the state as a whole ($59,540).
Much has been made of the “brain drain” that results as young people ages 15 to 29 leave rural communities everywhere to seek out education, careers and lives in cities.
While the youth exodus is troubling and deserves our attention, what is too often overlooked in all of the hand-wringing is the influx of workers ages 30 to 49 who are coming back to rural communities all over Minnesota - and what a boon that is to manufacturers.
After getting knocked down hard during the recession, manufacturing has been the comeback kid in Central Minnesota.
Over the past three years, the sector has picked itself off the canvas, charged forward with remarkable stamina and made substantial gains.
Manufacturing has added more employment to this region’s economy than any other industry since 2010, gaining 3,676 jobs.
On the off chance you forgot to circle it in red on your calendar along with other important dates like your wedding anniversary or your kids’ birthdays, here’s a gentle reminder: Today marks the beginning of Minnesota Manufacturers Week.
Cue the trumpet. The applause. The cheering. Roll out the cake with sparklers. All of it well deserved.
Like lots of Minnesota manufacturers, Erick Ajax hadn’t given much thought to selling his products in foreign markets.
Exporting sounded too complicated. Too risky. And EJ Ajax, a Fridley-based precision metal-forming company, was too busy taking care of its U.S. customers to go prospecting in unknown and uncertain territory abroad.
You can’t help but notice the special emphasis Sarah Richards uses as she describes her company.
“We are a third-generation, woman-owned metal fabrication manufacturer,” says Richards, the CEO and president of Jones Metal Products in Mankato, Minn.
Here's one of those gotta-have-it gifts that hardworking manufacturers and suppliers all over Minnesota can give themselves this holiday season: An online place to find - and be found by - more customers right in their own communities, regions and state.
A Minnesota manufacturers supply chain database has been on the industry's wishlist for quite a while. And this year, manufacturers will find it neatly wrapped beneath their collective tree.