With 40 days left before Election Day, presidential contenders President Trump and Democratic Nominee Joe Biden, visited the North Star State last week in an attempt to win over voters yet to cast their ballots. It’s not surprising at this point that the visits acknowledge the important role our state is expected to have this election. What may be surprising is one of the top issues both candidates quarreled over – the state of manufacturing in Minnesota and which candidate will do a better job supporting it.
However, what should be clear to every Minnesotan, is that no matter your party preference it is imperative to look closely at each candidate and where they stand on policies that can reignite manufacturing in our state.
Manufacturing is responsible for roughly 321,000 jobs in Minnesota and generates 14 percent of the state’s GDP year, making it the single largest private sector component of Minnesota’s GDP. Equipment manufacturers are a big part of that equation, supporting 85,500 Minnesota jobs and contributing $8.7 billion a year to the state’s economy. My company, Custom Products of Litchfield, and the larger equipment manufacturing industry build the equipment farmers use to help feed families. We also manufacture the excavators and pavers that construction workers use to build and maintain the roads and highways that connect people and drive commerce. And we produce the cranes and lifts used by utility workers to power homes and hospitals.
However, while no industry has been spared from this unprecedented crisis, a recent report showed Minnesota and other Midwestern states’ manufacturing employment had plunged to its lowest level since 1993. Furthermore, many small and medium-sized companies across our industry are hurting right now. A recent survey of more than 100 manufacturing executives shows more than one-third have furloughed up to half of their employees, while roughly one in five said they have laid off as many as 10 percent of their workforce. This is especially concerning not only because of the ripple effects that a strong equipment manufacturing sector has on our state’s overall economy, but also because of the essential role it will play in driving the state’s economic comeback.
Adding insult to injury, the COVID-19 crisis has only added to the U.S. manufacturing sector’s decimation in recent years as our nation’s share of global manufacturing declined 36 percent in the last 15 years. This is largely due to our leaders in Washington unable to agree on many of the pro-manufacturing policies that would help equipment manufacturers in Minnesota. For example, not enough has been done to advance policies to help rebuild and modernize our infrastructure, or support policies that encourage exports of manufactured goods, services, and agricultural products, a sector that usually contributes $33 billion a year in revenue for the state. Simply put, too many of our elected officials have put politics ahead of policy.
It's not just in Minnesota. Many manufacturing-heavy states are seen as decisive swing states. It is why some continue to call 2020 the Manufacturing Election. Even with the rise of issues related to COVID-19 and social justice, 2020 will be a pivotal moment for manufacturers in the U.S.
On Nov. 3, Minnesota voters have an opportunity that only comes around every four years. In addition to our local, state, and congressional races, we have a decision to make about whether or not the President has done enough to support hard-working families across the state. I urge my fellow Minnesotans to look closely at the candidates, prioritize the issues that matter, and elect leaders who will work to revitalize our economy and our country.
Randy Reinke is CEO of Custom Products of Litchfield, Inc. Based in Litchfield, Minnesota, Custom Products is a more than 60-year-old, privately owned supplier of cab enclosures and roll-over protection structures.