4 Questions with Senator Amy Koch
Position: State Senate Majority Leader
As you've traveled the state over the past few months, what are the main concerns manufacturers have voiced to you?
I think a lot of people might be surprised to know that in talking with manufacturers, I found that small and large businesses share many of the same concerns. There was a lot of uncertainty around costs related to health care and energy. Aside from Minnesota having a fairly
high tax climate and a difficult regulatory climate, that uncertainty was contributing to people sitting on hold. They were uncertain and they had concerns, so there wasn't a lot of expansion or hiring going on.
Do you hear from manufacturers that it is challenging to find qualified workers? What is the solution?
More and more people have moved towards this idea that to have a worthwhile career, you have to get a four-year degree. But if you visit some manufacturing sites nowadays, the technology will just blow you away. Additionally, manufacturers aren't looking for someone to just
flip a switch. This is highly technical work.
We do hear from business owners that it is difficult to find qualified workers. I think it's going to take a concerted effort. It's going to take some will on the part of government to encourage this, but it's also going to require that the private sector businesses step in
and say, "Here is what we need" and really promote themselves. I always encourage manufacturers to get job fairs going, not just to talk to the students, but also to talk to the parents. The parents need to see what's new in manufacturing, because it is not what many people
picture. It is much more technical.
Have you talked to manufacturers who are experiencing a return of work that had previously been sent overseas?
I heard it from both the manufacturers and also some of the bigger companies that may be their customers. They have said that the supply chain issue has come to the forefront of importance, because maybe having a supply chain outside of the United States isn't all it was
cracked up to be. So, I'm excited about what I see for manufacturing. I've always said that we can do it better, faster and for less in the United States if you just give us a chance, and I think you're going to see more and more of that. Look at the price of oil, climbing to $91 or
$92 dollars a barrel now. It's more cost effective to do things at home.
What is your definition of innovation?
When I think about innovation, I look at processes, not to see a reduction in the workforce, but just to see a smarter, faster way of doing it. As manufacturers' customers are demanding lower and lower prices, their workforce costs and fixed prices are what they are, but if
they can squeeze some of the inefficiencies out of their processes, then they can offer lower prices and be more competitive. That's what I see when I visit manufacturers: the innovative ways that they have done this, whether it's with their shifts, integrating robots, or even how
they are laying out their machines. I think it's exciting.