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Federal dollars can boost medical manufacturers

Karlee Weinmann//May 11, 2016

Federal dollars can boost medical manufacturers

Karlee Weinmann//May 11, 2016

A national designation highlighting Minnesota’s medical manufacturing sector potentially opens up significant federal funding streams to support additional growth and investments by local companies and cities.

The Obama administration last year added medical manufacturers in and around the Twin Cities to a list of regions that showcase how robust manufacturing industries create jobs and invigorate communities.

On Tuesday, regional economic development group Greater MSP celebrated the recognition by the federal government’s Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership initiative and called local leaders to action.

As one of two dozen manufacturing industry designees, players in the region – spanning the Twin Cities, St. Cloud, Mankato and Rochester – can tap funding from 11 federal agencies with more than $1 billion available for economic development assistance.

The Minnesota Medical Manufacturing Partnership, formed by Greater MSP, will help cities and businesses translate their growth-oriented ideas into federal funding. The group is prioritizing improvements to training, supplier networks, research and development, operations, access to capital and trade.

Michael Langley
Michael Langley

Greater MSP CEO Michael Langley urged manufacturing representatives and city officials at a Tuesday event to approach his group with their pitches. He positioned the federal recognition and funding as a gateway to more private investment and a stronger medical manufacturing space.

“It’s a really important signal to companies and investors from all over the world that this community is a good place to put their money,” he said.

Minnesota for decades has been a national and global focal point for its network of medical device makers and its reputation for health-oriented innovation. Marquee names, like Medtronic and Mayo Clinic, have maintained strong ties to the state for decades.

Medical manufacturers currently have 48,000 workers and more than 900 related businesses across the region, according to trade group Medical Alley. But economic development advocates frequently cite untapped potential in the sector.

Rochester, for example, recently launched a 20-year, multibillion-dollar push to expand and reshape itself as a hotspot for entrepreneurs. The plan, known as the Destination Medical Center initiative, hinges on Mayo Clinic, whose cachet in the marketplace already brings health-focused tech outfits to town.

Richard Davis
Richard Davis

“Manufacturing is indeed alive and well in Minnesota,” U.S. Bank CEO Richard Davis, who chairs Greater MSP’s board, said at Tuesday’s event at CHS Field in St. Paul. “It’s our job now to leave here and advocate.”

Jay Williams, U.S. assistant secretary of commerce for economic development, told local officials and leaders he views Minnesota manufacturers as a case study for other regions across the nation looking to stoke their own growth.

He singled out collaboration among Minnesota manufacturers and support from elected officials as facets that distinguish the state. In addition, he pointed to strong commitment to building upon the state’s rich manufacturing heritage.

In recent years, President Barack Obama has emphasized manufacturing as an important part of the national economic growth strategy. He has focused on reviving the auto industry, but Williams said that’s just the starting point.

Regional manufacturing strongholds of all types – like Minnesota’s — have more federal resources and remain a key priority, he said.

“There are still headwinds in manufacturing,” Williams said. “But we feel we are more prepared in this country to handle those headwinds than we have been in a very, very long time.”

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