As the numbers of COVID-19 cases across the country continue to climb, the takeaways from the 2020 edition of Enterprise Minnesota’s annual State of Manufacturing survey become increasingly relevant.

Gov. Tim Walz recently announced more measures to stop the virus’ spread as health officials have reported a record number of new cases along with additional deaths.

These kinds of ominous signs were already very much on the minds of the manufacturers who participated in our annual State of Manufacturing survey.

The COVID-19 pandemic has cast a long shadow over Minnesota’s manufacturers, triggering the deepest plunge in manufacturers’ expectations for their companies since the Great Recession of 2008, according to the 2020 edition of our survey.

A record low number of companies expect increased revenues in 2020; the number of executives who fear recession has increased seven-fold, and confidence in the business climate has sunk to half of what it was in 2018.

At our annual survey release event, which took place Nov. 5 — virtually, for the first time ever — pollster Rob Autry walked attendees through the survey’s results. Autry and his team at Meeting Street Insights, a South Carolina-based survey research company, interviewed a random sample of 400 Minnesota-based manufacturing executives.

This was the 12th edition of our survey and, without a doubt, this edition was among the most compelling. The effects of a nation and an industry struggling through a pandemic were baked into the results in undeniable ways.

Overall, 92% of manufacturers said that COVID-19 has had either a “major” (66%) or “modest” (26%) impact on Minnesota’s economy and business climate. Seventy percent say it has had a “major” (35%) or “modest” (35%) impact on their businesses. The impact appears to be felt less in the western half of the state.

Despite this, manufacturers continue to have confidence in their companies’ long-term resilience, as they have shown in all the years of the poll. This year, 85% declared confidence in the financial future of their companies. At the same time, however, 14% of executives were “not confident” in their future, three times worse than in 2019.

Other results:

•Roughly two-thirds of manufacturers across the board said COVID-19 has impacted their business plan for 2020.

•The survey revealed a significant increase in the number of manufacturers who fear recession, 36%, up from just 5% in 2019. Manufacturers have also soured on Minnesota’s business climate. Fully 35% said it has gotten worse — 20 points higher than 2018 — while 27% said it has gotten better, just half as many as 2018.

•Key business metrics experienced the biggest slide in the history of the poll. Just 21% of executives expect an increase in gross revenues, down from 59% in 2019. Expectations for profitability also fell considerably. Only 24% anticipate increased profits, down from 45% in 2019.

These are just some of the results from the survey. To get a fuller look at the findings as well as the candid thoughts of manufacturers from the focus groups that accompanied the survey, check out the latest issue of Enterprise Minnesota magazine at https://tinyurl.com/y5u8zx7k. Also, you can go to our website at www.enterpriseminnesota.org/, where we have links to a recording of the Nov. 5 State of Manufacturing event. — Lynn Shelton

(Editor’s note: Shelton is vice president of marketing for Enterprise Minnesota, an ISO 9001:2015 certified consulting organization that works with small and medium-sized manufacturing enterprises to help them compete and grow profitably.)

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