When a college student recently asked me to provide an elevator pitch of Enterprise Minnesota, I welcomed the opportunity. Anyone who values strategic planning knows the value of always reminding yourself what you do, who you do it for, and why. This can be especially valuable for an organization like ours that works in the marketplace of public/private partnerships. We’re not scored by how profitably we make and sell widgets; rather, we assess our performance on how well our customers make and sell widgets using our counsel.

Most readers — not all! — know the array of consulting services we provide to help Minnesota’s small- and medium-sized manufacturers grow profitably. Our expertise falls into five areas: continuous improvement; ISO management systems; strategies for growth; talent and leadership; and manufacturing peer councils.

It’s unusual for one organization to offer such a comprehensive menu of consulting services, but we don’t stop there. The “secret sauce” of our organization is how we use our platform to help connect the various participants in the full community of Minnesota manufacturing. Our mission is always to promote the value and successes of our customers and to promote policies that stabilize manufacturers and the communities where they operate.

One of our most important contributions is the annual State of Manufacturing® survey, the only one of its type in the country. A statistically valid sample enhanced with dozens of focus group transcripts, the survey has a remarkable 12-month shelf life because no other piece of research offers such a complete picture of the manufacturing sector. We also include regional data, giving policymakers across the state a clear picture of the issues facing manufacturers in their own back yards.

The State of Manufacturing survey has also allowed us to build relationships with the industries that support manufacturing — from accounting and legal services to marketing and human resource consultants.

As the labor shortage continues, our relationship with technical colleges takes on greater importance, and we have worked harder than ever to strengthen these connections. We aim to raise the visibility of the state’s technical colleges — a vital pipeline of future employees — through joint events, as well as coverage in this magazine and on our website.

All of these activities comprise Enterprise Minnesota’s value proposition. With an integrated approach, we serve the entire manufacturing enterprise through consulting and our relationships with elected officials, industry leaders and technical colleges.

We’re all delighted at how our organization has evolved into this role, which is more critical than ever because of the increasing importance of manufacturing to our state and nation.