Wages up at Minn. factories, survey says

For the first time since the recession, factory executives report increasing wages to attract workers.

Manufacturers in Minnesota are increasingly worried about finding qualified workers, according to a new survey from Enterprise Minnesota, a consulting group that has polled factory executives for six years.

In 2010, 19 percent of survey respondents reported a concern about finding and keeping qualified workers. In 2014, 34 percent expressed such a concern.

The poll surveyed 400 manufacturing executives across the state and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent.

A quarter of respondents say they'll invest more in worker development at their factories this year than they did in 2013, said Bob Kill, the consulting group's chief executive.

"They've really decided that what they'd like to have is technical training with experience but they're going to probably have to provide the experience," Kill said. "We've heard about it in welding, machining, robotics ... people who are really trying to develop their own programs to accelerate people being productive in the shop."

Kill said difficulties attracting qualified workers are most acute among factories in greater Minnesota.

He said larger firms with more than $5 million in revenue are the most likely to offer worker training and retention programs, and they're the most likely to forge relationships with educational institutions to secure a pipeline of workers.

Eighty-four percent of the executives who responded said they're confident about the future of their firms, the highest level recorded in the survey's six year history. At the same time, 51 percent of respondents said the state's business climate is on the wrong track, the greatest share since 2010.

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