Walz tours Innovance

Published 8:00 pm Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tim Walz, First District U.S. House Rep., and Mike Larson, Innovance CEO, talk with an employee during a tour of Innovance. -- Danielle Boss/Albert Lea Tribune

First District Congressman Tim Walz looked on Albert Lea’s Innovance Inc. Thursday as a successful business model for creating and maintaining jobs.

First District Congressman Tim Walz and Innovance CEO Mike Larson talk with Doug Olson, right, the business development manager for Innovance’s Lou-Rich.

The parent company to four businesses — Lou-Rich, Almco, Panels Plus and Exact Manufacturing — Innovance now has 340 full-time employees and 30 temporary or part-time employees. It has three facilities in Albert Lea and one in Hayward.

“It’s a powerful story,” Walz said, of the growth the company has experienced since it first began. “It’s positive to walk around here.”

Tim Walz visits with an Innovance employee.

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Meeting with company officials and a few other business leaders, Walz had a roundtable discussion about the company and then took a tour to see firsthand how the business operates.

Along the way, he stopped and talked with a few employees as well.

He said he plans to take back what he’s learned about Innovance to his colleagues in Congress.

First District U.S. House Rep. Tim Walz and others on the tour stop to look at an item made at Innovance.

“The jobs are here,” he said. “There’s models that work, and for me it’s been a very positive experience.”

Looking to the new session, he said he thinks its success stories such as Innovance that can start to rebuild the faith of the country about the economy.

The company has employee-owned stock options that also got him interested and that help to make an employee feel like they belong with a company and want to stay there.

Walz, a Democrat from Mankato, also talked about how to make sure the young adults coming out of high school can get the training they need to succeed in a technical field such as welding.

Tim Walz speaks at Innovance Thursday.

“There’s still a great sense of pride with manufacturing,” he said.

Innovance CEO and President Mike Larson said he does not think companies are being provided with a trained workforce, and the business leaders discussed how to make this a priority from high school into the community colleges.

Walz said it is also one of his goals this session to pass a highway bill that will help create jobs.

After his visit at Innovance, Walz was slated to visit Albert Lea City Hall to meet with some of the city’s leaders.