A Klobuchar Moment
Von Ruden’s CEO grabs a last-minute invitation to make the case for manufacturing
By Lynn Shelton
Enterprise Minnesota's Director of Marketing and Communications
(Pictured Left to Right: Brandon Anderson, president, Von Ruden Manufacturing; Harry Larson, business development consultant, Enterprise Minnesota; U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar; Bob Kill, president and CEO, Enterprise Minnesota; Brad Nauman, mayor of Buffalo; and Kyle Olson, business outreach director, Office of U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar)
Never mind that it was a short-staffed Friday lunch hour during the July 4th holiday week, Von Ruden president Brandon Anderson jumped at the chance to host U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar for a last-minute tour of his Buffalo-based manufacturing plant.
You never want to waste an opportunity to show an elected official the value of manufacturing to its community and vice versa—even one who already “gets it.”
Anderson said he wanted to showcase Von Ruden’s deep roots in Buffalo and the value of community relationships. Brandon’s father and predecessor as president is Al Anderson, who joined the company in 1980 as a division manager and bought out the division in 1989, using grants from the State of Minnesota and Wright County.
Today, Von Ruden is an $8 million company whose 45 employees design and manufacture mechanical power transmission and hydraulic drive components, including tooling for the machine tool markets.
“I wanted to show continuity,” Anderson said, “that businesses can stay and strive long term in small communities.”
He demonstrated his close relationship with local governance by inviting the mayor and the city administrator to the tour. “We've been in Buffalo for 26 years. You just don't see that too often,” he said.
His second objective was to demonstrate how rapid technological advances in manufacturing have transformed the industry, even in the two decades that he’s been at the company. “It's not a dark, dirty place. It's very heavily capital intensive,” he said. “I expressed to Senator Klobuchar that my number one cost is not labor, it's not health insurance, and it's not material. It's actually the overhead and the equipment.”
Heavy investments during the tight credit days following the recession of 2008-09, he said, were enabled by R&D programs from the state and federal government, along with accelerated depreciation opportunities.
Anderson’s third point was related to labor. “We have a clock that's ticking,” he said. “The average employee in manufacturing is approximately 58 years old. In five or ten years, there's going to be a massive exodus of employees entering retirement.”
The traditional four-year degree path is not what Minnesota manufacturers need to populate their plants; more students should consider a two-year education in a technical school. What’s more, he told Senator Klobuchar, “Von Ruden’s lowest paying job in the facility with a high school degree is still $35,000 per year, and our average machinist, many of whom have no education, is well into the $60,000 range . They learned just by working.”
“You can make $65,000 to $100,000 very easily with a two-year trade degree in this industry, and it's only going to get better the next 20 years,” he added.
A side benefit of the visit, Anderson said, is how much his employees enjoyed meeting the genial senator.
“She is very down to earth, extremely personable, very relaxed, and easy to talk to. Without question, she understood all the things that need to happen.
“She engaged most every employee, he added. “It was great. She definitely is a good politician.”
Time to Rethink Your Manufacturing Strategy?
**Exclusive to Manufacturers**
Thursday, July 21, 2016
8:30 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.
8400 Normandale Lake Blvd, 8400 Training Room - 1st Floor
Bloomington, MN 55437
What to Expect
- Does your corporate vision include the right combination of strategic mission, values and objectives to help your company compete and grow?
- Is your business effectively integrating your strategic vision into its existing organizational culture?
- How well do you understand your competition or how technological advancements will impact your business?
- Are you incorporating your customers’ strategy into your strategic thinking?
- Do you know how to create distinct market advantages that will be difficult for competitors to copy or substitute?
Mary Connor, an Enterprise Minnesota business growth expert, will share her knowledge and insights around rethinking and retooling your business strategy to be best positioned to manage current challenges. Sharpen Your Strategic Edge
This event is exclusive to manufacturers and is free of charge. Registration required.
To register please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 612-455-4239