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Best in 6 years: Manufacturing wages, hiring, confidence all on the rise

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Minnesota's manufacturers have shaken the sluggish environment of the recession and their confidence has soared to a six-year high.

The Pioneer Press has a story detailing the sixth annual survey conducted by consulting company Enterprise Minnesota. It finds that 84 percent manufacturing executives polled in the State of Manufacturing survey say they are confident about the future of their firms.

"It is clear that Minnesota's manufacturers are more confident about their future today than they have been at any point since the start of the recession," Enterprise Minnesota CEO Bob Kill said.

The Star Tribune reports the findings include responses from 400 executive surveys and 14 focus groups conducted around the state. Many Minnesota factory executives polled said they plan to raise wages for the first time since the Great Recession.

“And we also see a slight uptick in expected gross revenues and profitability for 2014,” said Rob Autry, the Public Opinion Strategies pollster who conducted the surveys and focus groups for Enterprise Minnesota.

The outlook is so positive that MPR News reports that manufacturers in Minnesota are increasingly worried about finding qualified workers. In 2010, 19 percent of survey respondents reported a concern about finding and keeping qualified workers. In 2014, 34 percent expressed such a concern. Difficulties attracting qualified workers are most acute among factories in greater Minnesota. Engineers, welders and drafters are among the toughest workers to find.

While the report signifies a better mood among Minnesota producers, it didn’t find complete satisfaction. About 54 percent of those surveyed expect the U.S. economy to be flat this year while just 37 percent expected nationwide growth. Meanwhile, 59 percent of survey respondents listed health care costs as their “top concern.”

Officials with Enterprise Minnesota shared the upbeat news with 400 manufacturers, college officials and state economic development leaders Thursday at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Report authors also will hold industry briefings about their findings through June 13 with presentations planned in Eveleth, Grand Rapids, Brainerd, St. Cloud, Alexandria, Mankato, Albert Lea, Winona, Red Wing, Owatonna, Rochester, Elk River, Litchfield and Fergus Falls.

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