Survey: Worst of recession is over

Published 3:54 pm Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The worst of the recession may be over for Minnesota’s manufacturers, according to a survey released this week by nonprofit consulting organization Enterprise Minnesota.

According to the survey, less than 10 percent of manufacturing executives in Minnesota anticipate a continued recession for their businesses in 2011, while 40 percent foresee economic expansion.

Officials with Enterprise Minnesota on Wednesday presented the findings of the study in Albert Lea in front of about 30 manufacturers, business leaders and secondary education leaders at Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services. The presentation was one of seven the group is making around the state to deliver the results.

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Enterprise Minnesota President Bill Kill compared the results to the end of a storm, when the clouds are parting.

“The bottom line is we’re hearing very positive feedback, but not without our challenges,” said Kill.

These challenges include concerns over health care costs and government policies and regulations.

The survey — formulated by a pollster with Public Opinion Strategies — includes answers from 400 manufacturing executives in January from across the state. It also includes concerns raised at 17 focus groups.

Albert Lea Economic Development Agency Executive Director Dan Dorman said the survey results reaffirm what he’s been hearing from various local manufacturers who have started hiring more full-time — or in some cases, temporary — employees. In either case, it’s a positive symbol that maybe the economy is improving.

“I don’t think the growth is going to be as fast as in the past, but it may be more stable,” Dorman said.

Other themes that emerged from the survey included the following:

• About 16 percent of manufacturing executives are taking advantage of foreign markets. Of those who do, 83 percent choose to export to Canada.

• Manufacturing executives are less concerned about the financial stability of their key customers. Twenty-five percent of executives list financial stability of key customers as a major concern, compared to 51 percent two years ago and 29 percent in 2010.

During the Wednesday presentation, there was also some discussion about training the workforce that will be needed to fill manufacturing jobs in coming years.