Event celebrates local manufacturing

A free community event to celebrate manufacturing will take place at Anoka-Ramsey Community College Tuesday, Oct. 22, 6-9 p.m.

Mike Schultz from BioDapt Inc., professional athlete and the 2013 Popular Science Magazine’s Invention of the Year Award winner, shows his award-winning Versa Foot product. Schultz will appear at the free community Minnesota Manufacturing Week event, Oct. 22 at Anoka-Ramsey Community College.
Mike Schultz from BioDapt Inc., professional athlete and the 2013 Popular Science Magazine’s Invention of the Year Award winner, shows his award-winning Versa Foot product. Schultz will appear at the free community Minnesota Manufacturing Week event, Oct. 22 at Anoka-Ramsey Community College.

Anoka-Ramsey, Anoka Technical College, the Anoka Area Chamber of Commerce and the city of Coon Rapids are hosting the program as part of Minnesota Manufacturing Week, which runs Oct. 20-26.

Activities, which include a manufacturing expo from 7:30-9 p.m., will be in the community college’s Legacy Room and cafeteria.

The event will also feature a screening of the movie “Metal and Flesh” from 6-7 p.m., complete with popcorn, and a question and answer session with “Monster” Mike Schulz, who is the focus of the movie, from 7-7:30 p.m.

Schultz, who is from Pillager, is a snocross world champion and the winner of the 2013 Popular Science magazine’s Invention of the Year Award.

Three weeks after his leg was amputated following a snowmobile accident, Schultz designed his own prosthetic leg and within seven months, he won a silver medal in the motocross X-Games and began designing prosthetics for other challenged athletes.

Schultz will be exhibiting his products – the Moto Knee and the award-winning Versa Foot – along with his gold medal motocross bike during the manufacturing expo.

The purpose of the Inspire The Next Generation of Manufacturers event is to connect students, parents and community members with manufacturers, giving them a chance to interact with local manufacturers and see what they do.

“This is a great opportunity for the community to appreciate what our local manufacturers are doing and see that manufacturing is a great career path,” said Jon Olson from Anoka-Ramsey/Anoka Technical College’s professional and workforce training division.

Manufacturing is an important part of the economic base in Coon Rapids and Anoka County, according to Matt Brown, a Coon Rapids community development specialist.

And it is vital that there is a skilled workforce in place in the city and county to meet the long-term needs of the  manufacturers in the community, Brown said.

“Since we emerged from the recession a few years ago, we’ve seen significant growth in manufacturing jobs,” he said.

“In order to ensure a strong manufacturing base in the future, we need to make sure our future workforce is prepared and aware of the rewarding careers that the field offers.”

The city’s involvement in this event stems from a business retention and expansion study that was completed earlier this year by the city of Coon Rapids, and to follow through with one of the recommendations, Brown said.

That recommendation was to strengthen connections between businesses and higher education to address the “skills gap” that was identified in the study through “career laddering” and identify skills and certifications that are lacking to modify curriculum and workforce training offerings, he said.

The purpose of the study was to “ensure strength for existing businesses and promote expansion of businesses in the community,” according to Brown.

There are more than 40 manufacturing businesses in Coon Rapids, both large and small, and some of them will be exhibiting at the manufacturing expo, Brown said.

The city is also a member of the Anoka Area Chamber of Commerce and recently hosted a meeting of the chamber’s manufacturing coalition group at the Coon Rapids City Center, he said.

According to event organizers, lack of awareness of manufacturing jobs and a shortage of people with necessary skills have combined to produce a negative perception of manufacturing employment opportunities in Minnesota.

“We don’t have a job creation problem; we have a manufacturing talent shortage,” said John LeTourneau of the Anoka Area Chamber of Commerce.

“I hear about talent issues all the time at our chamber meetings. We were even asked recently how we, as a chamber, can get students excited about training for manufacturing careers.

“This event is a perfect way for manufacturers to be a part of the solution in the career-awareness area.”

According to the 2011 Minnesota Skills Gap Survey, administered by Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development, almost half of respondents reported positions unfilled due to a lack of qualified applicants, and indicated moderate or serious worker shortages.

“We know manufacturing has an image problem,” said Matthew Salo who manages the medical device manufacturing program at Anoka-Ramsey Community College.

“We see Minnesota Manufacturing Week as an opportunity to engage and educate our community that advanced manufacturing isn’t their grandparents’ factory job.

“Walk into a modern manufacturer’s building and you’ll see bright and clean facilities, robotics, lasers, computers and high precision machines producing high tolerance parts.”

Salo also hopes the event will give the community the opportunity to see the manufacturing industry with fresh eyes.

“Everything around us was created through manufacturing, from a simple light switch cover to a medical device that keeps a heart beating,” Salo said.

“Manufacturing touches our lives daily.”

Many manufacturers and education providers will open their doors to the public Oct. 24-26 during Minnesota Manufacturing Week.

There is limited seating for the Oct. 22 event at Anoka-Ramsey. Go online to register at manufactureevent.eventbrite.com.

For more information contact Michael Wall at Anoka-Ramsey at 763-433-1597.

Anoka-Ramsey Community College is located at 11200 Mississippi Blvd. NW, Coon Rapids.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]