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Manufacturing companies are adding jobs, economy is on the uptick

Manufacturing companies are hiring and there is room for optimism in the lakes area economy.

Those were the hopeful words from Kevin Close of Close-Converse Commercial and Preferred Properties as he provided an update on market conditions for the Brainerd City Council Tuesday night.

“The good news is things are picking up,” Close said. “We feel really good about what’s happening. Manufacturing is definitely on the uptick.”

Close said companies like Clow Stamping, Pequot Tool, Lexington Manufacturing, Lakeland Mold and LINDAR are looking for people, hiring and increasing business. Close said there is a general increase in activity in the last three to four months and Close-Converse has sold, leased or put under contract close to 200,000 square feet of industrial or warehouse space in the market area. There are happier banks, sellers and landlords, Close said, noting businesses are starting to prosper and need more space.

Close said they haven’t sold any industrial land in Baxter or Brainerd or any of the outlying towns and companies won’t be looking at building until some of the older properties are off the market.

Brainerd Council members asked if the price for land in the Brainerd Industrial Park was competitive. Close said the price isn’t an issue and a prospect looking for data storage liked the Brainerd Industrial Park the best.

Close said that gap has to close again, prices rise on available inventory and then people will be interested in building again. Close predicted there may be a lot or two sold in 2012 but realistically it may be 2013 before that activity takes hold. To that end, Close said they are continuing to work on marketing efforts and with connections such as Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corp.

“I think we are seeing the people start to come and I think it’s a matter of time,” Close said. After four years of difficult news, 2011 had a stronger ending in terms of positive economic activity with hope it picks up speed in 2012. As for the manufacturing jobs, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development recently reported nearly half of Minnesota manufacturers responding to a survey say they haven’t filled positions because they lack qualified job candidates.

“The 2011 Minnesota Skills Gap Survey found that 45 percent of responding manufacturers in the state considered the shortage of skilled workers to be a moderate or serious problem,” DEED reported. “The biggest shortages were found in skilled production (58 percent of those responding), followed by jobs for scientists and engineers (40 percent of respondents). Shortages were not as severe for jobs in low-skilled production, management and administration, and customer service.”

“State manufacturers have openings, but Minnesotans who are looking for work often don’t have the right skills to fill them,” said DEED Commissioner Mark Phillips. “As we observe Minnesota Manufacturers Week, it’s a good time to stress the importance of aligning manufacturers’ needs with workforce training.”

Gail Leverson, executive director, Cass County Economic Development Corp. reported this spring in Pine River, Central Lakes College will be hosting an Intro to Manufacturing class for that very reason. Leverson said average manufacturing jobs in Cass County pay wages of $497 per week.

“I hope some local adults will take advantage of the opportunity to retrain,” Leverson said.

Manufacturing has been among the strongest-performing sectors in the state in the past year, adding 4,000 jobs year-over-year through September, DEED reported.

“Officials say the lack of skilled manufacturing workers in key positions could affect economic growth if it prevents Minnesota companies from increasing production to meet customer needs,” DEED reported.

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at 855-5852 or

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
(218) 855-5852