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Collaboration is Key
Manufacturers in Greater Minnesota increasingly confront their challenges by working together
By Bob Kill
December 2018
Bob Kill, Enterprise Minnesota president and CEO
(Bob Kill, president and CEO, Enterprise Minnesota)

There is a lot to commend in the “One Minnesota” theme Governor-elect Tim Walz has emphasized in preparation of his swearing in as our next governor.

I travel around Greater Minnesota—a lot—visiting manufacturers who work with Enterprise Minnesota’s consultants to improve their operations. In every trip, I see examples of the special value small manufacturers bring to their communities and the unique circumstances they face, particularly those located farthest from population centers.

Manufacturers play an increasingly outsized importance as the job-creating engines of their local economies. They provide young people an opportunity to sink roots in their hometowns. They offer satisfying long-term career opportunities through well-paying jobs with benefits. But in order to embrace “One Minnesota,” manufacturers must recognize their circumstances. Their sometimes far off locations can constrain their abilities to compete in increasingly sophisticated markets. They have less access to pools of qualified employees and increasing challenges related to product transportation. Plus, their size sometimes prevents them from taking on the kind of practices and processes that will boost productivity.

Here is where I see real hope. Manufacturers are realizing the real advantages to working together. In this issue of the magazine, you’ll read about how the Little Falls-based Initiative Foundation (IF) has teamed up with Enterprise Minnesota to provide group services for manufacturing companies that may not have been able to afford it on their own. It is a very encouraging trend that we expect to continue.

I can’t say enough about the value the six Initiative Foundations bring to their regions in Greater Minnesota. Formed in 1986 by a partnership of regional leaders and The McKnight Foundation, each foundation was created to independently strengthen its regional economy and communities with grants, business loans, programs, and donor services. Most people believe Initiative Foundation’s structure is unique to Minnesota. No other state has a similar network that unites community and economic development.

Enterprise Minnesota has enjoyed a great relationship with these organizations on a variety of projects, particularly the State of Manufacturing®, our annual survey.

I’d like to personally identify and thank each of the Initiative Foundation presidents:  

Matt Varilek
Initiative Foundation, Little Falls 

Tony Sertich
Northland Foundation, Duluth 

Nancy Vyskocil
Northwest Minnesota Foundation, Bemidji 

Tim Penny
Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, Owatonna 

Diana Anderson
Southwest Initiative Foundation, Hutchinson 

Anna Wasescha
West Central Initiative, Fergus Falls 

Bob Kill is president and CEO of Enterprise Minnesota

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