Lynn Shelton

NextGen Manufacturers

The Weekly Report – June 8, 2020
The Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota shows that recruiting efforts start earlier than most people think.

The Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota deserves an extra loud shout out from those of us who appreciate that recruiting new generations of the manufacturing workforce should start when potential employees are most impressionable–say, elementary school.

The Mankato-based museum, already 15 years old, enables children to explore agriculture, the arts, history, and the culture of the region. With the goal to “ignite the natural curiosity of every child through the power of play in a dynamic, awe-inspiring environment,” the museum is more focused on play than teaching specific facts, but every play area is designed so that kids can learn about the world around them. It receives about 100,000 visitors every year and is staffed by 40 full- and part-time workers.

You’ll read a longer profile of the museum in the upcoming issue of Enterprise Minnesota® magazine. It was written by writer Grace Brandt, a new contributor.

Grace shows that manufacturing is a core emphasis of the museum, due in part to a Minnesota Legacy Fund grant that required the museum to promote the history of its region—and manufacturing has played a large part in how the area developed over the past 200 years.

As a case in point, she highlights “Cecil’s Imagineering Loft,” named after Cecil Jones, a prominent local entrepreneur and inventor of Jones Metal fame. Kids can use the loft to explore building, cutting, designing, painting, molding and more, including challenges to create their own inventions with the use of copies of Jones’ original work notebooks.

Museum employee Deb Johnson told Grace that about 8,000 school-age visitors come to the museum every year for guided fieldtrips. Second graders participate in a “matter in motion” fieldtrip at the museum’s quarry, which features stones quarried only a mile up the road, while third graders participate in an engineering challenge.

“They’re using an engineering notebook from a real inventor, and it’s really about that team coming together and going through an engineering process,” Johnson says. “Sometimes, when you’re a third grader, it doesn’t always work, but that failure is a really important part of that process, too.”

Another year experience is called “Dig It,” a two-day event in which about 900 students from grades 8-12 talk to experts in these different fields. During this time, certified operators help children operate heavy machinery, participate in welding simulators, see a display on how an electric motor works, and watch how electric circuits are built. All the while, visitors learn about building sustainable communities and trade industry careers.

The four-year old “Dig It!” program evolved out a need voiced by manufacturing and trade businesses in the area, Johnson says.

This all represents an inspiring example of a public/private partnership working toward to the long view of ensuring that manufacturers will be able to sustain local economies for generations to come.

Industry News

Duluth-area manufacturing highlights
Cirrus Aircraft is showing strong sales after an initial slow start to the quarter and Ruth’s Vegetarian Gourmet meals is finding new space on grocery store shelves. June 8, Duluth News Tribune  Read more

St. Cloud advanced manufacturing training lab project update
St. Cloud Technical and Community College received a $2.5 million federal grant to expand manufacturing training facilities in the college’s Northway Building. The lab is slated to open in 2023. June 5, SC Times  Read more

A new shopping cart innovation
SterileCart cart wash is aiming to streamline the cart disinfectant process nationwide. Innovative new product developed by Buffalo, Minn.-based Izza Manufacturing & Coatings. June 4, MSP Business Journal  Read more

EDCO Products Inc. names new president and CEO
EDCO Products Inc., a Hopkins-based industry leading manufacturer of residential and commercial exterior building products has named John G. Lewis as President and Chief Executive Officer. June 3,  Read more

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