When lobbyists in St. Paul describe their requests for government spending as an “investment,” they are typically speaking metaphorically. A rare exception to that rule, I’m pleased to say, is our Growth Acceleration Program (GAP), which talks about a literal dollar-for-dollar return on investment—one that is almost surreally impressive.

The Minnesota Legislature created GAP in 2008 to help bring business improvement services to manufacturers with 250 or fewer full-time employees. Since its inception, GAP has helped 427 companies achieve eye-popping results. Generating an average $30-to-$1 return-on-investment, it has created and retained 10,040 jobs in Minnesota, boosted company sales by $1.01 billion, and saved these companies $177 million in business costs.

All funds awarded under GAP must be used to assist an eligible company with business services and products that will enhance the operations of the company. These business services must come directly through Enterprise Minnesota. Recipients may not use GAP funds for financing, overhead costs, construction, renovation, equipment purchase, or computer hardware.

What’s better is the program helps manufacturers—the job-creating engines who sustain their local economies by providing a sturdy base for prosperity across Minnesota. Someone once said that “work is the elixir of life.” And politicians like to talk about how the availability of steady jobs can supplant the need for a lot of social programs.

More and more policymakers understand that manufacturers create and retain jobs. Quality jobs. The number of people employed by manufacturers has grown nine percent since 2010, today comprising 13 percent of all our private-sector jobs.

Each manufacturing job supports 1.9 jobs in other sectors of the economy. That means that fully one-third of Minnesota jobs are in, or supported by, manufacturing.

And manufacturing jobs pay well. The average annual wage for a manufacturing job is more than $63,000—15 percent higher than the average wage for all industries.

It’s easy to see why both parties in the Minnesota Legislature view GAP as a government investment that works.

In short, manufacturers give Minnesota’s politicians fertile grounds for agreement. GAP is an opportunity all legislators can address when the legislature convenes in January.

We also enjoy the fact that policymakers, educators, and local leaders have come to trust Enterprise Minnesota as a dependable connector of small and medium-sized manufacturers with their communities and, candidly, with their state. One of our missions has been to truly understand manufacturing and manufacturers.

Many observers conclude that our primary connection with the manufacturing community comes through our annual State of Manufacturing® survey, which is partly true. Our survey indeed delivers statistically accurate public opinion polling through one of America’s top pollsters and is the only survey of its kind in America, as far as we know. The State of Manufacturing has become a vital source of valuable, objective data about the challenges and opportunities facing Minnesota’s manufacturers. But that project is only the most visible of our activities.

Another comes from the tireless dedication of our president and CEO. We all draw inspiration from the fact that Bob Kill takes time every week to get out and visit manufacturers, CEO to CEO. He gets real-world insights in ways that help guide the targeting of the services we offer.

No less valuable are the insights we get from our consultants. Our professionals work in the offices and on the plant floors of small and medium-sized manufacturers every day of the week—all across Minnesota. Consider this: Enterprise Minnesota’s people travel just over 320,000 miles per year visiting manufacturers. That’s the equivalent of driving from New York City to Los Angeles twice every business week. My point? We’re out there.

Another significant contributor to our outreach has been the more than 300 times we have helped arrange opportunities for legislators to tour the facilities of their local manufacturers. Our fascination with this process never ends. We started inviting elected officials to tour our client companies because it had become alarmingly clear that manufacturers and their elected officials had become experts in talking past one another. They knew each other from Rotary, or from church, or by attending the occasional chamber of commerce meeting. But many elected officials didn’t fully understand how those same people, operating out in the industrial parks on the fringe of town, had transformed their industries. Many local manufacturers had become sophisticated global players, working in plants that were quite modern and clean, and home to an increasing number of high-tech, well-paid careers.

Communication matters. And GAP helps lubricate that process.

Featured story in the Winter 2019 issue of Enterprise Minnesota magazine. 

Return to Winter 2019 magazine