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Red Wing Area Manufacturers Association elects new leadership

The Red Wing Area Manufacturers Association has elected new leadership, with Bill Simmons of ADM becoming president and Justin Neufeldt of Neufeldt Industrial Services taking the role of vice president.

The group has members from all over the region, including Cannon Falls, Lake City, Red Wing and other surrounding cities. The roughly 50 active members represent about 35 to 40 different businesses, according to Simmons.

"The focus of the group is exposure. We offer tours, have speakers come in and promote not just businesses but manufacturing in general," Simmons said.

The group meets once a month at a different manufacturing company that hosts and shows other members around the facility. The group adjourns during the summer months before coming back together in autumn.

The main goal of the Manufacturing Association is to educate the public on local opportunities along with the workforce in general. In the past, the manufacturing trade has gotten a bad name because of the dirty and unsafe conditions decades ago. Simmons hopes he can change that perception.

"We want to change that image. It's safer and cleaner now, and there is a high demand for capable people," Simmons said.

This is a big concern in the manufacturing business. Manufacturing is constantly growing by becoming less manual and using more robotics. This is leading to a need for higher-skilled people to fill roles that used to be supplied by manual workers.

Neufeldt said how he was fortunate to have good workers in his business, but a problem with the industry at-large is reliability and having workers leave after their first paycheck.

These skilled trades need more of a replenishment, with the process of hiring new workers proving very difficult in recent years. That process starts with schools putting more emphasis on trades and students seeing it as a viable career path.

"For a while everything was pushed for business degrees and now it's a big push for the trades again. We have several guys who are going to be retiring in the next five years and then there's a lot of guys in their 30s, so there's not much in between," Neufeldt said.

But in a town as industrially-rich as Red Wing, there are loads of opportunities to find careers and jobs in manufacturing. The next step is finding people who are willing to pursue those careers and see that they're available.

Simmons has a variety of goals to accomplish in his time as president. One of his first courses of action centers around extending the group's reach in the community. That plan focuses on reinforcing strategies from the past to use different avenues to get the group's message out.

That includes new ideas for manufacturing week in October, tours and especially a video showcasing 10-12 local businesses and informing the public on their role in Red Wing.

"It's good for the companies in two ways: one is the people who see the services and other members can know what the company does, and also for the public to think 'hey, I want to work there' or for students to see it as a fun job," Neufeldt said.

The association is also known for spreading the word about job openings and focusing on maintaining membership. Promoting each other and helping other members through either word of mouth and through physical business is important for the continued strength of the Manufacturers Association.