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northwest-minnesota-mapThe presence of such industry powerhouses as Polaris, Arctic Cat and New Flyer make Northwest Minnesota a hub of transportation equipment manufacturing.

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Drone Economy on the Way Up

1/11/2019 2:00:00 PM

Cameron Macht

A recent Forbes article suggests that the drone industry is poised to really take off, perhaps becoming one of the most profitable and rewarding uses of technology in the new economy. A 2017 study from McKinsey & Company suggests that commercial growth of the U.S. drone industry soared from $40 million in 2012 to more than $1 billion in 2017. Beyond that, by 2026, McKinsey estimates that 'commercial drones – both corporate and consumer applications – will have an annual impact of $31 billion to $46 billion on the country's Gross Domestic Product.'

Led by Northland Community & Technical College, Northwest Minnesota has staked a claim in the field of drones, offering the first unmanned aerial systems (UAS) maintenance training program in the country. As the Star Tribune has pointed out, agriculture and other innovative leaders in the region have been collaborating for the past five years to make the most of the opportunity.

According to DEED’s Graduate Employment Outcomes data, Northland Community & Technical College has averaged just under 50 graduates per year from its vehicle maintenance and repair technologies program over the past three years, which includes aerospace and avionics maintenance technology programs. The median hourly wage for graduates who earned certificates was $16.17 in the second year after graduation, which climbed quickly to $17.70 per hour by the third year (Table 1).

Table 1. Graduate Employment Outcomes for Northland Community & Technical College

In addition, the GEO data show that about 60 percent of graduates from these programs found employment in Northwest Minnesota. That’s excellent retention for the region in a program that offers wages well above the basic needs Cost of Living. Beyond that, a check of openings on MinnesotaWorks.net shows more than 30 current positions featuring the keyword "drone" statewide, and 13 new listings for the search term "unmanned." However, most of these jobs are headquartered in the Twin Cities metro area, with the exception of a half dozen located in the Grand Forks area.

For More Information

Contact Cameron Macht at 320-441-6596.

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