The Minnesota Legislature’s decision to consider including — again — funding for the Growth Acceleration Program (GAP) in this year’s budget is a helpful sign for small manufacturing companies across the state. In addition to providing essential funds for businesses seeking to improve their operations and boost market positions, the measure is a clear indication that many of Minnesota’s elected officials recognize the vital role manufacturing plays in our state’s economy.

Created in 2008 to give small manufacturers affordable access to critical business support, GAP is as crucial as ever for companies facing a challenging post-COVID landscape. With the funds allocated through GAP, manufacturers with 250 or fewer full-time employees can access business services for assistance in critical areas of operation including quality, cyber, and sales.

The program gives a dollar-for-dollar match to eligible companies for services provided directly through Enterprise Minnesota and has proven over time how effective it is. Since its inception, GAP has helped countless Minnesota manufacturing firms stay in business, keep employees, and continue growing. With the help of GAP, manufacturers have created 12,556 additional jobs, generated $1.4 billion in additional sales, saved $206 million in costs, and invested $583 million in plant, equipment, technology and skills development.

One in seven jobs in our state is directly manufacturing related, and each of these jobs creates two additional jobs. That means fully one-third of Minnesota jobs are dependent on the manufacturing sector. With the continued funding of GAP, legislators from districts across the state are signaling their understanding of how essential manufacturing is to our economy.

We were pleased that several client companies joined Enterprise Minnesota president Bob Kill and me as we testified before the legislature to advocate for continued GAP funding. Paul Ebnet, president and CEO of Straub Design in New Hope and chair of the Enterprise Minnesota board, testified that he has worked for two different Minnesota manufacturing firms in the last 10 years, and both have benefited from GAP.

“In both companies, the GAP resources were critical for us to move forward and leverage our own investment funds, which is important for small manufacturing organizations,” Ebnet told the members of the legislature, explaining GAP helped the companies implement quality programs and improve sales, and in both situations resulted in significant job growth.

Likewise, Joe Plunger, owner of Midwest Metal Products in Winona, testified about the many Enterprise Minnesota programs his company has benefited from and explained that “GAP funding provides a bridge that gets many small businesses to commit to the help they need. I know it did that for me — it swayed my decision to proceed, and as a result we have done a lot of good for our employees and community.”

I’m delighted whenever business leaders join us to testify in support of manufacturing before the legislature, or when they work with Enterprise Minnesota to host lawmakers on tours of their manufacturing facilities. Those who run Minnesota’s manufacturing companies are a busy and humble group, not inclined to draw attention to themselves. Across the state, countless vibrant companies hum along without fanfare, producing remarkable products inside ordinary-looking buildings, often without signage, unknown to the legislators who represent them.

That’s why, even though Enterprise Minnesota exists to serve manufacturers through consulting services that help businesses achieve sustainable growth, we also are delighted to point out the tremendous role the manufacturing sector plays in our economy and advocate on behalf of these great companies to ensure a climate where they can continue to thrive. That the Minnesota Legislature consistently recognizes manufacturing’s tremendous economic contribution — and may continue funding this important boost to the manufacturing sector — is a helpful sign. The legislature concludes its business this year on May 23. We hope the outcome is a win for GAP, which would be a win for manufacturers.

Featured story in the Summer 2022 issue of Enterprise Minnesota magazine.

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