Enterprise Minnesota Magazine - February 2012
HELPING MANUFACTURERS GROW PROFITABLY
4 Questions with Bob Gunther
Position: Minnesota State Representative, District 24A, Assistant Majority Leader
As a legislator, how do you view the impact of manufacturing as an element of economic development?
Manufacturing is a major portion of economic development. In fact, manufacturing is the star of job creation in Minnesota. We’re gaining more manufacturing jobs right now than we are any other category of jobs. These are good paying jobs that will strengthen Minnesota’s economy.
I think manufacturers are the backbone of Minnesota’s economy, and have been forever. The manufacturing industry emerged from the recession leaner and meaner, and as a result, I think there are fewer jobs per industry because everyone is now more productive. What we need to do now is have more manufacturing companies so we can continue to create more manufacturing jobs.
Is there much that legislators can or should do in the upcoming session to benefit the manufacturing industry?
We’ve got to constantly make sure we’re eliminating barriers for growth for manufacturers and for all businesses, and we’re doing that in the legislature with the Reform 2.0 initiative. Right now, corporate taxes are pretty high in Minnesota. In the northeastern part of the state, we also have the largest deposit of copper and nickel in the nation, if not the world, and it’s not being mined because the of the lengthy Minnesota Pollution Control Agency permitting process. We’re trying to figure out how to accelerate that permitting process so we can kick-start another big industry.
What can manufacturers do to strengthen partnerships with legislators?
I think it’s imperative for industry to come tell the legislature what they want. Just simply give your legislator a call or an email, introduce yourself and voice your concerns. Tell your legislator you would love to have him or her contact you any time for advice.
How can legislators help manufacturers respond to the industry’s shortage of qualified workers?
The thing that makes this state go is jobs. The number-one thing that people in Minnesota want is more jobs, better paying jobs, so that we can grow and prosper. If you think of the Department of Revenue as the State’s cash register, every time somebody gets a job there’s a ring on that cash register. That’s what happened in the ’90s—we had a lot of rings and we had tremendous prosperity and surplus after surplus. I think the primary thing we have to do is we have to connect with the industries in Minnesota, find out their needs and how we can fit in to help them find qualified workers.
We also have to make sure manufacturers feel comfortable hiring that extra person in the first place. It’s a big commitment to hire another employee today. You have to look at so many things such as hospitalization costs and taxes and workers comp and unemployment insurance. We have to create a better environment for business and industry to thrive in Minnesota.
To contact Representative Bob Gunther, write to rep.bob. firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.house.leg.state.mn.us
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