We were thrilled when U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar asked us to organize a listening session in which she could hear how COVID was affecting Minnesota’s manufacturers.

After an hour of candid and thoughtful insights from four manufacturing executives, she said her next steps were clear.

“I have my marching orders here to get as much done as we can immediately,” Klobuchar said, “so we can take some action here.”

What that action may be remains to be seen. But a new COVID relief package appears to be making its way through the legislative process; help may be on the way. NOTE: This may be taken as political, because of the minimum wage, and because the direct payments to people without means testing will keep even more potential employees at home.

The pandemic has taken a toll on manufacturing. While some manufacturers saw no change in production schedules or even experienced an increase in demand, the pandemic forced others to slow down dramatically or even lay off workers.

“We were down at least 15 employees right before the shutdown. After that, we lost almost half,” Black Swan Cooperage owner Heidi Korb told Klobuchar. “And I would say the bulk of them went on unemployment because they can make so much more than I could afford to pay them.”

Korb said her company could benefit from another round of the Paycheck Protection Program, a notion echoed by Scott Maki of Custom Products in Litchfield. Maki pointed out the challenges that arise when healthy employees must stay home with kids in quarantine. Maki told Klobuchar Custom Products had lost 300 worker days due to people who waited for a test result or cared for a family member who may have been exposed.

The manufacturers in the group were hoping for more COVID relief and perhaps revised quarantine rules. While they may not get much help on quarantine guidelines — both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Minnesota Department of Health still recommend 14-day quarantine periods for anyone exposed to the virus — it proposes stimulus checks, unemployment assistance, tax credits for families and workers and other relief measures.

Our conversation with Klobuchar, which we greatly appreciated, shows manufacturers the value of reaching out to elected officials — at both the state and federal levels. This conversation could be a model for manufacturers considering reaching out to their local elected officials during the Minnesota legislative session.

You can read more about the conversation with Sen. Klobuchar in the spring issue of Enterprise Minnesota® magazine.

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Events Calendar

February 25 – Strategically Navigating an Uncertain Future
Our strategy and revenue growth expert Steve Haarstad will show you how to shorten your strategic outlook to help navigate uncertainty and plot a course for your company’s continued success. Online via Zoom  Learn more and register

March 30 – Investing in Your People to Create Leaders at All Levels
Talent and Leadership expert Abbey Hellickson will be discussing how to determine and develop leadership competencies in your organization to help foster a company culture of growth and resilience. Online via Zoom  Learn more and register

April 8 – How to Manage a High Performing Business: ISO
Learn the key elements of effective business management systems and the value of ISO 9001:2015 certification from expert David Ahlquist. Online via Zoom  Learn more and register

See more upcoming events

Industry News

Austin, MN, is now ‘major player in peanut business’
Hormel Foods’ recent acquisition of Planters brand peanuts puts the company in a strong market position for the high-growth area of snacking. Feb. 13, Duluth News Tribune  Read more

Bemidji Steel Company donates to Bemidji Career Academy
The Bemidji Career Academies recently announced their newest financial sponsor, Bemidji Steel Company, who made a sponsorship contribution. Feb. 13, Bemidji Pioneer  Read more

Hopeful signs: Manufacturers see a rebound this year 
Despite early impacts across the industry, manufacturers are seeing orders increasing and are more optimistic about the economy and future. Feb. 15, Mankato Free Press  Read more

Four MN recyclers receive state grants totaling $400,000
The Recycling Market Development Funds range from $50,000 to $149,000. Feb. 19, Star Tribune  Read More

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