District 57A Rep. Jon Koznick was first elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2015. As the minority lead on the Economic Development Finance and Policy Committee, he has taken a leadership role in legislation affecting manufacturers.

Representative Jon Koznick (R-57A)
Representative Jon Koznick (R-57A)

You have become a real advocate of observing your local manufacturers first-hand through company tours. Why is that?

Rep. Koznick: I’ve learned of the important role manufacturing has in creating a lot of jobs and its impact on Minnesota’s economy — the importance of manufacturing jobs throughout the state and within local economies is a bit of an under-told story. I hope more legislators take the opportunity to tour different manufacturers in their district, and not just the big ones. It would be great to have stronger recognition that the smaller manufacturing companies are doing the heavy lifting of creating jobs and keeping our economy moving.

It is exciting to visit businesses you might drive by but not really know what they do, how many people they employ, and how they contribute to our state’s economy. It’s been fabulous to see the range of manufacturers just in my own district. Before being elected to the legislature, I was a member of the Lakeville Chamber of Commerce and the Dakota County Regional Chamber of Commerce. I would attend events, but events are different than touring specific businesses. I have toured the Amazon fulfillment center in my district. It is huge, the size of a couple of football fields. I could see the amazing organization and engineering that goes into a large manufacturing and distribution center like that. But I also toured Hinckley Medical, a great startup by some young guys just out of college who came up with a new medical gurney device. They’re about to enter a phase where they need to start manufacturing in higher quantities, so they have to decide whether to take that on themselves or find another manufacturer that can make parts for them. As a policymaker, it’s helpful to know what challenges businesses are facing and what is working. Tours help me understand each unique business and how policy can help and/or hurt a business.

Do you agree that many legislators are surprised to learn how manufacturing is far different than the old stereotypes they might have had about dirty, boring, and repetitive jobs?

Rep. Koznick: One of the first local manufacturers I visited makes small screws for surgeries and things. He had five or six people making $80,000 or $100,000 a year, and he was looking for more. It’s amazing. You go into this warehouse, and the floors are as clean as a car dealership; the showroom is cleaner than everybody’s garages and probably even their kitchens. There are exciting career opportunities in this industry.

You were the chief advocate in the House for a couple of measures that helped manufacturers directly.

Rep. Koznick: I saw a direct correlation between helping manufacturers — especially small ones — expand and create jobs across the state and strengthening the state economy. These smaller manufacturers can help create the economic backbone of a community. You can help stabilize a small community if you help a smaller manufacturer grow from five employees to 15 or 35. That helps provide a livelihood for 15, 20 families, plus there is the growth-effect value off that. It wasn’t expensive to provide a little incentive to these other manufacturers and business owners to invest in themselves.
I think we could have done more, to be honest. Much of the spending done by the Jobs and Economic Development committees may not have the return that the state should expect, like the small manufacturing grants do. There was more that we could have done with our resources.

What’s behind your reputation as someone who would rather work with people to get things done, outside of mere politics?

Rep. Koznick: That’s what Minnesotans expect. People in my district know that I’m a fiscal conservative, but they also expect us to go to St. Paul and prepare a budget that’s meaningful, not hurtful. I take my job seriously because people send us to St. Paul to build those relationships and figure out areas we can agree on. Supporting manufacturing businesses to expand should be something that both Democrats and Republicans can agree on. I’ll continue to advocate for growth and jobs, as well as fight a lot of the harmful policy that does the opposite.

Return to the Spring 2024 issue of Enterprise Minnesota® magazine.