If you want to know how important it is for manufacturers to communicate with their legislators, just ask Jim Seifert, an attorney with the Fafinski Mark & Johnson law firm.
“They should know what their interests and policy priorities are,” Seifert says. “And they should ideally have at least one face-to-face meeting with a legislator or senior staff member. It’s the people who show up who have the power.”
Seifert should know. He happens to be a former legislator.
These are uncertain times. Since COVID hit, nothing has been business as usual. Even the state legislature is conducting much of its work via Zoom.
Just because we’re living in uncertain and inconvenient times, however, doesn’t mean the machinations of government will stop. Things keep churning, which is why manufacturers need to remain diligent about having their voices and concerns heard at the Capitol.
I’ve told a story numerous times about touring some manufacturing facilities with a handful of legislators in central Minnesota a decade or so ago. One legislator was amazed to learn he didn’t really know what kind of products a particular company manufactured. The company, located in this legislator’s district, employed more than 50 people.
The point: Your elected officials should know who you are, what you produce and what your impact is on the community. Don’t assume they know or figure they should know. Be proactive. Reach out to them. Leave no doubt about their understanding of your company.
Identify and speak with your elected officials.
Find your representative.
One state investment we’d love to see expanded this year is the Growth Acceleration Program (GAP), an incentive-based program that buys down the cost of improving business for smaller manufacturers. GAP funding allows companies to receive up to a 50% rebate for services the company receives. The legislature is currently considering expanding GAP as manufacturers try to navigate COVID. The program’s initial funding of $800,000 was cut to $400,000 by the 2019 legislature.
The message from manufacturers to legislators should be clear: Manufacturers are job creators and keep current employees employed. Jobs produced by manufacturers come with competitive wages and often lead to careers. In many cases, they provide rural residents with jobs close to home and become the heart of the community.
The average manufacturing wage across the state dwarfs other industries. Manufacturing in Minnesota pays an average annual wage of $68,081, which is 16 percent higher than the state’s overall wage average. That can fuel growth regardless of community size.
So, it is important to reach out to your representative or senator. Don’t be humble. Brag a little bit about the power of manufacturing jobs. They will listen.
I’ve visited enough manufacturers to know that virtually every elected official is interested in hearing about the kind of jobs and careers manufacturing companies provide. And most elected officials will take a call from a manufacturing business constituent inside his or her legislative district.
Featured story in the Spring 2021 issue of Enterprise Minnesota magazine.