In early October, a group of about 120 high school students celebrated Manufacturing Month by touring Pine Technical and Community College in Pine City. It’s not unusual for a group of students to visit a technical school to explore post-high school options. What was unique about this tour was that all the students are eligible for a full-ride scholarship, plus $1 ,000 in expenses to attend Pine Tech.

The scholarship is the brainchild of Dennis Frandsen, a business executive who is constantly looking for ways to help local communities. His family foundation created the program to help train students to land manufacturing jobs and, it has the potential to bring new employees into an industry that desperately needs them.

Eligible students are graduating seniors from high schools in Braham, Pine City and Rush City in Minnesota and in Frederic and Luck in Wisconsin. Students accepting the scholarship receive two-year tuition at Pine Tech and $1 ,000 to cover books, tools, and supplies. Almost 200 scholarships have been awarded to date.

Frandsen built his success off hard work, with much of it in manufacturing. He’s been a dairy farmer, a lumberman, and he has interests in several manufacturing companies. In addition to the Frandsen Family Foundation, Dennis also leads Frandsen Bank and Trust.

“Hopefully this creates a pipeline of skilled workers in positions manufacturers are desperate to fill,” says Joe Mulford, president of Pine Technical and Community College. “It’s really good for manufacturing in our region and state.”

In an interview with ABC News when Dennis launched the scholarship program in 2018, he said he wanted to help students who didn’t think they could pay for their education after high school.

Franzen was inspired, in part, by the growing need for skilled workers at his own companies. “I realized there’s a lot of opportunity for students,” he said. They just needed a way to prepare for those jobs.

Frandsen ‘s manufacturing companies include Plastech Tool & Engineering in Rush City; Plastech Corporation in Rush City; Miller Manufacturing in Glencoe; and Industrial Netting in Maple Grove.

Dennis ‘s son Greg, who is Frandsen Corporation’s president and the president and CEO of Industrial Netting, says

it was his father’s thinking that led to business success and innovations like the scholarship program. “He always wants to try new things, and just see if they work.”

All those who work with manufacturers and support this job creating and retaining engine of Minnesota’s economy may want to look at the success of the Frandsen scholarship and ask what can be done in their own local communities to support students who might just choose manufacturing as their career calling.

Featured story in the Winter 2021 issue of Enterprise Minnesota magazine.

Return to Winter 2021 magazine