A foundry executive with 40 years of experience is the newest member of the Enterprise Minnesota board of directors.
Joe Plunger, CEO and owner of Winona-based Midwest Metal Products, joins Enterprise Minnesota’s nine-member board with an eye toward improving workforce and infrastructure issues for Minnesota manufacturers.
Plunger, a graduate of Michigan Tech University in Houghton, MI, spent about 15 years working for Grede Foundries in Southfield, MI. After that, he spent six years at a foundry called Citation Corp. before being recruited by Midwest Metal.
“I have been in high-level roles for much of my 40 years of manufacturing, so I have lived very many of the problems that our manufacturers are, or will be, facing. With that experience, I can bring a certain perspective to the Enterprise Minnesota board and leaders with regard to how we can help manufacturers.”
Plunger says one pressing issue facing manufacturers is the nation’s infrastructure system. Regardless of size, all manufacturers rely on roads — whether through direct shipping or for supply chain purposes.
“I think the country’s infrastructure has the potential to be a long-term problem for manufacturing,” he says. “We built a really wonderful transportation system in this country a long time ago. And, sadly, we have not kept it at the high level of quality that it should have been.”
Plunger also says he’s eager to help manufacturers move beyond COVID’s challenges.
“From a long-term standpoint,” he says, “I think we’ll look back at it as a 12- or 18-month bump in the road.”
Enterprise Minnesota President and CEO Bob Kill says Plunger will bring innovative ideas to the board. “While a foundry is an ‘old’ manufacturing industry, Joe’s strategy and new investments are an example of how manufacturing leaders must think. He will be an asset to our board, and I am delighted he has joined.”
A more pressing and long-term issue will be workforce shortages.
“Just the evolving demographics of the population are going to continue to make it difficult to secure workers,” Plunger says. “It seems in the more physical applications of labor is where we’ll all end up working on automation of some sort, at some level.”
Plunger says any manufacturer looking to become more profitable should look to Enterprise Minnesota for help in making that happen.
“Manufacturers, you do not have to navigate building a strong business infrastructure by yourself,” he says. “Use this resource to spread the work, speed up the process, and help set you up for the future.”
Featured story in the Spring 2021 issue of Enterprise Minnesota magazine.