Gov. Tim Walz visited a Ham Lake business Oct. 4 to celebrate manufacturing month.
More than 80 visitors gathered inside Safety Speed Manufacturing, including representatives from the Anoka-Hennepin School District, the Anoka Area Chamber of Commerce and state government.
Speakers from the region spoke on the importance of manufacturing and celebrated how much has been done to promote the industry in Anoka County.
“We (Minnesota) manufacture everything from every fuel pump for the F-35 fighters to the battery boxes for nuclear submarines to every can of Spam,” Walz said.
Walz further celebrated Minnesota’s place as the top-ranking state in labor participation.
“We have the highest workforce participation rate of any of the states, because we know how to work, we have a work ethic,” Walz said.
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics in August 2019 Minnesota had a labor participation rate of 70.1%, with only Washington D.C. boasting a higher participation rate at 71.1%.
Manufacturing jobs pay about $67,000 annually statewide, about 15% more than any other industry in Minnesota, said Commissioner Nancy Leppink of the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry.
The Anoka Area Chamber of Commerce’s Manufacturing Coalition examined 185,000 jobs in Anoka County in 11 segments of workforce. About 19% of those workers are in manufacturing. That jumps closer to 30% in communities with higher amounts of manufacturing, like Ramsey or Fridley, Coalition Director John LeTourneau said.
Across the 11 segments, average income was $50,000 per year. That increased to $79,000 per year if manufacturing was examined alone, LeTourneau said.
“That’s a crazy number,” he said. “When we start to share that with students that really sends a great message. It sends a good message to their families ... to us it means you can grow up in Anoka County, you can go to school here and you can be educated and employed in Anoka County in a way that will allow you to buy a house, start a family, get that truck and do it without a single dollar worth of debt from college.”
Anoka-Hennepin Superintendent David Law promoted the Secondary Technical Education Program in the Anoka-Hennepin School District. He pointed out that when asked, students at Andover High School told him that most of the pressure to go to college came from their parents.
“Our job is to educate the adults in our community about these wonderful careers,” Law said.
Jessica Lipa, director of Anoka-Hennepin’s career and technical education, talked about how the school district developed its pathway for students into manufacturing jobs.
“We were able to really change the trajectory for our students and show them a field that has an amazing potential for career education,” Lipa said.
The district formed an advisory board to give feedback about what the district needed to do to prepare students for manufacturing jobs.
Local manufactures advised the district on curriculum and trained teachers, and the district was able to get the equipment needed to provide the classes.
“Many of our manufacturers came into our classrooms and taught the students side-by-side with the teacher, because who knows the content better than our manufacturers?” Lipa said.
Later Walz said the state was also there to help develop opportunities where private industry was unable because the state had the economy of scale and could address issues like housing and transportation, which are important for allowing workers to take the jobs available.
“It is possible to create good-paying jobs, to create safe working conditions, to do it in an environmentally sound manner and to create the wealth necessary so that people can do that,” Walz said.