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Optimism among Minnesota manufacturers for 2017

Minnesota manufacturers have high hopes for 2017, according to the results of a study released Monday.

More than 90 percent of firms expect production, employment levels and prices to increase or at least stay the same during the year, per a Department of Employment and Economic Development and Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis survey

"These results indicate that manufacturing in Minnesota is headed in the right direction, with the vast majority of employers expected to retain or increase the number of jobs in this critical industry," DEED Commissioner Shawntera Hardy said in a press release.

DEED and the Fed randomly surveyed 262 manufacturers in November for the study. During that month, employment in manufacturing was largely flat throughout the state compared to November 2015.

In St. Louis, Carlton and Douglas counties the numbers were similar. Manufacturing employment was down less than 1 percent from the year before, according to DEED data. About 6,600 people were employed in manufacturing in those counties as of November and 315,000 in the state overall.

"I am very optimistic about the coming year," said Jeremy Lehman, production manager at TriTec in Virginia. "A lot of our customers at TriTec are seeing some upticks in the first quarter, and we're generally seeing more optimism overall. I think the mining sector will see some growth this year as well."

He said growth in oil drilling and infrastructure projects could also add fuel to the region's manufacturing furnace this year.

Looking back at 2016, companies said many markers like employment, investment and productivity were flat or rising; nearly half of manufacturers surveyed said profits were down.

Brooks Johnson

Brooks is an investigative reporter and business columnist at the Duluth News Tribune.

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