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Other view: If you're graduating, give manufacturing a look

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According to the latest data from Enterprise Minnesota, a consulting organization that works with small and mid-sized manufacturing companies, the manufacturing industry in our state is thriving. Many of us are enjoying busy production lines and strong growth.

The vast majority of Minnesota’s 8,300 manufacturers are small and mid-sized companies and nearly half of them are located outside of the Twin Cities. At Harmony Enterprises, we are the world’s third-largest manufacturer of balers, compactors and beverage extraction equipment and we ship to customers in more than 80 countries.

Although we’re in boom times now, our industry still faces challenges. Namely, there is a severe worker shortage — there simply aren’t enough people choosing a career in the trades.

Manufacturers need critical thinkers and proactive problem-solvers to keep our industry strong and positively impacting our communities. I encourage young people who are graduating now or adults who are considering a career change to take a fresh look at manufacturing.

In smaller communities like ours, manufacturing has a proportionately larger impact on the local economy because of our size and our commitment to the area. Our employees’ salaries are spent in the community and our company couldn’t operate without area businesses that supply parts to us. We proudly purchase 98 percent of our parts and logistics from U.S. vendors, primarily based in the Midwest.


When our employees told us that finding childcare was a challenge, we created a new local learning center and offered discounts to our employees to help alleviate the stress of managing work and family.

Communities with a strong manufacturing presence such as ours have an interdependent relationship with other businesses and citizens, and we rely on each other for success.

Because manufacturing and local communities are so tightly linked, it’s important for us to live out our values and support our community so we can keep exceptional workers and attract new talent. From the first day an employee walks through our door, we nurture their development to help them achieve personal success and to support the growth of our company. We build trust through honest communication with each other, which builds a healthy and safe work environment that retains quality employees — some of whom have worked with us for 30 or 40 years!

Partnerships are also important for raising awareness about the value, creativity, and fulfillment that a career in manufacturing offers.

That’s why we and many of our manufacturing peers value community partnerships that educate students (and adults) on the good-paying jobs that exist right in our backyards. In Rochester, we work with Journey to Growth to show young people that even if they’re not interested in welding, manufacturing has many career options that include finance, production, sales, engineering, design, marketing and more. In Winona, we partner with Minnesota State College Southeast to prepare seniors for their job search by conducting mock interviews. We partner with Fillmore Central High School in Harmony on vo-tech classes and an internship program that gives students a first-hand look at our industry — and we get the benefit of filling open positions with quality people who can be responsible for a variety of important job skills.

As an industry, manufacturing has had a negative stigma attached to it when it comes to accessibility, innovation, creativity and opportunity. My hope is that more students — and adults — see value in manufacturing and how it supports strong communities. Positive work climates, a variety of uses for talent and skills, and opportunities for career growth are just a few of the reasons why manufacturing deserves a second look.

We can all be proud of our strong manufacturing industry in Southeast Minnesota that provides quality employment and gives back to the areas in which we work and live.

If you want to learn more about the state of Minnesota’s manufacturing industry, look for the results of the 11th annual State of Manufacturing survey that will be released May 14. The survey is the barometer of our industry’s status in Minnesota and a report on the perceptions, opinions, challenges and successes we face in order to remain strong contributors to our local economies.

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