Makin’ It: Minnesota Manufacturers Bullish on Growth, Worried About Recruitment

Business is booming for Minnesota’s makers, from the Metro to the Iron Range and everywhere in-between. This year’s ninth-annual State of Manufacturing Survey from Enterprise Minnesota, shared at an event on May 9, revealed a strong sense of optimism among Minnesota manufacturers. We attended the event with our manufacturing and non-manufacturing clients alike in mind, as the current trends and undercurrents that influence Minnesota’s manufacturing landscape of course also affect the broader economy.

Because manufacturing has such an enormous impact on business in Minnesota, it was encouraging to hear that more than 90 percent of the 400+ manufacturers surveyed felt confident about the futures of their companies, the highest number recorded in the survey’s nine years of polling. Even more impressive is the 57 percent of respondents who said they felt “very confident” about the future, up 14 percent from last year’s survey.

Despite bullish attitudes about the future, Minnesota manufacturers share several concerns about potential limitations to further growth. Rising health care costs continue to be a major worry, with 59 percent of respondents citing it as the most troublesome issue facing their companies.

Another growing challenge is a shortage of human capital – across the state, manufacturers of all sizes are having difficulty filling open positions, limiting growth potential and adding recruiting and hiring costs to the bottom line. More than 31 percent of manufacturers surveyed named “attracting and retaining a qualified workforce” as their primary concern – nearly doubling last year’s total.

Recruiting and retention is especially troubling for large manufacturers with more than $5 million in revenue, and particularly challenging for Greater Minnesota companies, which often have to compete for talent with Metro-area employers. That’s one reason why the state Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) are helping many Minnesota manufacturers establish apprenticeship programs that give qualified workers the valuable experience needed to start a career in manufacturing, with the hope these workers will advance through the ranks to become future leaders.

Brand marketing strategy and PR can also play important roles in helping Minnesota manufacturers differentiate their business cultures and attract talent from every corner of the state. Establishing a reputation for being a great place to work – whether through award programs, content marketing around compelling employee stories, publicity for workplace perks, or social media ratings – can help manufacturers appeal to the Millennial demographic. Events, including job fairs, open houses and visibility at prominent public celebrations (such as the Minnesota State Fair) can also help large manufacturers showcase their uniquely attractive qualities for prospective hires. (Interested in talking more about communications strategies for your business? Drop us a line at

Opportunity abounds for Minnesota’s makers. With the support of the entire Minnesota business community and a clear, unified plan for growth – guided by a foundational brand and marketing strategy – manufacturers can tackle the uncertainties of a tight labor market and reap the full benefits of an improving economy.

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