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Northwest Region

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

From wheat and potatoes to soybeans and sugar beets, the region is a major producer and processor of food staples and specialty agricultural products.

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2019 Manufacturing Highlights

9/10/2019 12:00:00 PM

Chet Bodin

With 29,165 jobs at 826 establishments, manufacturing is the second largest employing industry in the 26-county Northwest Minnesota planning region, behind health care and social assistance. Manufacturing accounts for 13.1 percent of total employment in Northwest, almost two percent more concentrated than in the state as a whole, where 11.2 percent of total jobs are in manufacturing.

Northwest Minnesota Manufacturing 2019Now 10 years after the Great Recession, Northwest Minnesota has enjoyed substantial job growth from 2013 to 2018, adding a total of 8,867 net new jobs – including 1,255 new jobs in the past year – across all industries. The manufacturing industry gained 1,067 jobs since 2013, making it one of five regional industries to net over 1,000 new jobs over the past five years, accounting for one in every 8 jobs added in the region during that time. After losing nearly 5,000 jobs from the peak of just over 30,000 jobs in 2005, the region’s manufacturers have almost regained pre-recession employment levels.

With nearly 6,000 jobs, food manufacturing is the largest industry sub-sector in Northwest, followed by transportation equipment manufacturing, machinery manufacturing, and fabricated metal product manufacturing, which each had around 4,000 jobs. The region also had 3,500 jobs in wood product manufacturing, and around 1,000 jobs in printing and related support activities, plastics and rubber products manufacturing, nonmetallic mineral product manufacturing, and computer and electronic product manufacturing.

Machinery manufacturing led regional job growth in Northwest Minnesota from 2013 to 2018, adding 555 jobs.  Miscellaneous manufacturing also added over 200 jobs; and chemical manufacturing, food manufacturing, and beverage and tobacco manufacturing added over 150 jobs during the five-year period. On the other hand, five of the 17 manufacturing subsectors in Northwest Minnesota lost jobs from 2013 to 2018, with printing and related support activities (-116) and transportation equipment manufacturing (-671) suffering the highest losses (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Northwest Minnesota employment change, manufacturing subsectors, 2013-2018

The region has some unique manufacturing strengths. Northwest Minnesota is home to approximately 7.7 percent of total employment in state, but over 30 percent of the state’s jobs in transportation equipment manufacturing and wood product manufacturing. Textile mills and textile product mills also have high location quotients. Northwest Minnesota also shows slightly higher concentrations of jobs in food manufacturing, machinery manufacturing, primary metal manufacturing, nonmetallic mineral product manufacturing, and fabricated metal product manufacturing.

Manufacturing is also one of the highest paying industries in the region. Manufacturing payrolls surpassed $1.5 billion in 2018, accounting for 16.7 percent of total payroll in Northwest Minnesota. Average annual wages in manufacturing were $52,267 in 2018, which was over $11,000 and 28 percent higher than wages across the total of all industries in the region. Manufacturing wages increased 5.5 percent over the past year, compared to a 3.8 percent wage increase overall from 2017 to 2018.

For More Information

Contact Chet Bodin at 218-825-2183.


Northwest MN


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