January, 2016

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MA Announcements

New and Renewing Companies

Thank you to the following members who joined or renewed your membership in the past 30 days!

Ironwood Electronics
Hammel Green and Abrahamson
Despatch Industries
Quali Tech
Patterson Thuente IP
Baker Tilly
Hamer LLC
NEXEN Group 
National Flooring Equip
Kendall Howard
Du Fresne Manufacturing 
Orion Search Group
Modern Tool 
GLS Companies
Specialized Recruiting Group
Metro Machine & Engineering
Schwing America
Radius Track Corp
Dynamic Sealing Tech
Mikros Engineering
Force America
Viking Engineering 
American Flexible Products
Bosch Automotive Service 
Rosemount Aerospace
Eaton Corporation
TEAM Industries

Completed Certifications

Congratulations to the following individuals who have completed their certification in the 4th quarter. Job well done!

Ryan Dawson-Pentair
David Sandvig-Teleflex 
Joe Lavoie-Pentair
Steve Hern-Reell Precision
Diane Monson-Starkey
Sharon Schutte-Starkey 
Mark LeClaire-Starkey 
Robin-Moore Govro-Bilfinger
Steve Wright-Baxter
Kurt Kern-Delkor


Connect with over 2000 peers online through the Manufacturers Alliance LinkedIn group. Learn More.

PGC Earns Recognition

Precision Gasket Company (PGC) has earned recognition as a John Deere "Partner-level Supplier," Deere & Company's highest supplier rating. Read more.

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March 10th 2021 09:00 am
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March 11th 2021 08:00 am
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March 15th 2021 08:30 am
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March 16th 2021 09:00 am
- The Frontline Leader's Role in the Hiring Process Online

March 17th 2021 08:00 am
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March 18th 2021 08:00 am
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Article Index

Lean Leader: John Sachen-Computype, Inc.
Article by: John Sachen

John Sachen is Director of Operations - North America with Computype, Inc., in St. Paul, MN. He has been with the company for 2 1/2 years.

Rapid Talent Acquisition and Deployment
Article by: Robert Backes

When your bottom line is at stake, being able to hire the right people quickly is critical.

Ask The IP Attorney
Article by: Patterson Thuente IP

Provisional patent applications are the topic of this month’s Ask the IP Attorney Q&A.

Engineering Studies: Why They Could Be The Best Thing You Do For Your Plant In 2016
Article by: Matthew Strebe, PE

What if you could reduce utility costs 5-20%, have a more comfortable work environment, and improve productivity and throughput?

Hiring Successful Sales People
Article by: Lynne Jensen-Nelson

“I am convinced that nothing is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day, you bet on people not strategies.”- Lawrence Bossidy, COO of GE

Building Companies on Purpose
Article by: Diane Nettifee

2015 was a year for strategic planning. A Mechanical Contracting Company invested time in looking at the market conditions.

MN Economic Outlook
Article by: Dr. Ernest Goss

The November Minnesota Business Conditions Index slumped to 41.1 from October’s 42.7.

Lean Leader: John Sachen-Computype, Inc.

John Sachen is Director of Operations - North America with Computype, Inc., in St. Paul, MN. He has been with the company for 2 1/2 years.

With over 40 years of experience, Computype is a global leader providing labeling technology, barcoding solutions, and tracking systems to the Tire & Rubber, Healthcare, and Industrial Manufacturing industries.

Where did you receive your Lean training/experience?
I was fortunate to be working for Hearth & Home Technologies for 14 years and at the beginning of their Lean journey. HHT embraced  “Continuous Improvement” from the top down. We used internal (Hon Industries) and external (Shingijutsu Consulting) for training our Lean leaders. Today HHT is recognized as a Lean manufacturing leader. In the mid-1990’s Hearth & Home was awarded the “Shingo Prize” for manufacturing excellence. HHT continues to lead and share their vision and journey.

How, when, and why did you get introduced to lean and what fuels the passion for Continuous Improvement?
As with most people/companies, you do not start a “Lean Journey” when things are going great… In 1994, HHT was growing at a tremendous rate, resources and funding were limited. The leadership team began looking for ways to be more productive in a proven structured format. The TPS (Toyota Production System) is all that and more. We hired people with experience, invested in benchmarking opportunities and reached out to consultants for expertise we lacked.

The best part about continuous improvement, is the journey. Starting with nothing and watching it spread across the company as a whole. It allows you the tools to help individuals make a difference every day. It improve the members self-worth and value as a member of the team. Besides that, it is fun!

What are your current Lean oriented activities?
Computype has started our journey with 5S. The foundation of Lean. We have progress throughout the manufacturing shop floor and about 25% of the rest of the facility. We are currently working on the 2016 event plan that includes, Standard Work, Space Utilization, Efficiency Gains, Cross Training and continued 5S opportunities.

What were the lessons learned in leading or training your team on a Lean project?
Probable more than this article will allow! I will narrow it down:

1.    Assuming people understood what Lean meant too soon after training. Need to get to Gemba and practice, Lean cannot be fully learned in the classroom.
2.    Getting members to understand it is ok to fail.
3.    Reinforcing that perfection is not the goal, improvement is. Too many people in the beginning like to focus on what didn’t get done instead of what did. Celebrate the success.
4.    Setting expectations on Lean progress. It is a journey and by definition, not a short term fix.

What are the next steps in the Lean journey for your company? 
See above

How would you describe peer-to-peer education & training to your colleague?
As I mentioned above, benchmarking is a great tool. Peer-to-peer allows the opportunity to see both how to do things and how not to. It also makes it easier to see next steps and not have to re-invent the wheel. It is also of great value to bounce ideas off each other outside of your normal work place. Finally, when you do host a group, you are provided an evaluation that will open your eyes again. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “Darn, I should have recognized that one!"

John Sachen is Director of Operations - North America with Computype,Inc., in St. Paul, MN. He can be reached at john.sachen@computype.com.

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Rapid Talent Acquisition and Deployment

When your bottom line is at stake, being able to hire the right people quickly is critical.

Whether you are a new company landing your first piece of business or an established organization growing and winning new contracts, hiring new employees or contractors has become a greater challenge in the current economy. The challenge can be further intensified when the number of new employees or contractors is sizable and the timeframe is condensed. The business need to fulfill new customer requirements, optimize revenue, and make a great first impression reinforces the importance of having a comprehensive “end-to-end” talent acquisition strategy in place that allows you to scale up, or down, the necessary resources.

Developing a comprehensive talent acquisition strategy includes the creation of a detailed project plan with designated accountabilities and deadlines. It also needs to cover every aspect of the recruiting cycle from intake, meeting with hiring managers, advertising, sourcing strategies and tactics, pre-screening processes, interview scheduling, feedback processes, offers, background checks, and onboarding. A sample high-level project plan and workflow are below.

graphic 1

graphic 2

Organizations that find themselves in such a rapid talent deployment mode often consider bringing on a partner to either assist or lead the extra efforts necessary to meet talent goals. It is critical that the partner have the ability to scale quickly, the tools and resources to develop a customized solution and finally a culture of direct communications and transparency to provide regular and open updates on progress results and challenges. The following are two recent case studies illustrating successful rapid deployment efforts.

Staffing Up for Seasonal Workforce Needs
A rapidly growing health services company had an urgent need to onboard 90 to 100 contractors for a major seasonal five-month project, which included two weekday shifts as well as often hard-to-fill weekend shifts. Contractors had to have full background and credentials checked prior to starting. An accelerated timeframe dictated that the selected contractors needed to be in training within just five weeks from the commencement of recruiting efforts, so the organization opted to partner with an outside talent solutions entity to lead and perform end-to-end recruiting, tracking, and administrative activities.

Given the competition for contractors with a very specific skillset, multiple recruiting and sourcing channels had to be employed, and resulted in a diverse range for hire origin. Sourcing passive candidates via LinkedIn was a crucial action that yielded a large portion of the desired results.

graphic 3

Several obstacles arose that were addressed, including:

  • Many interviews with prospective candidates had to occur in the evening, a time that worked best for them; an evening recruiter was deployed,
  • In some cases, there were Interview no shows; the sourcing partner double-booked slots to mitigate impacts,
  • A need for more candidates in the pipeline; sourcing partner conducted two job fairs rather than one.

Overall results were as follows:

  • 200 interviews completed
  • 129 offers
  • 122 acceptances
  • 93 candidates advanced through training
  • Seasonal project was successfully completed that included an outside quality check

Mining for Well-Matched Candidates
In another example, a customer care call center in a large metropolitan market needed to expand its base of customer service and inside sales representatives quickly. The organization had scheduled three consecutive 3-month trainings that had to be filled within a 60-day timeframe, and each training class needed to include at least 20 candidates. In the past, the company’s lengthy hiring process resulted in the drop-off of many qualified candidates along the way. At the time, the labor market touted good candidate availability, but also intense competition. A talent solutions partner was employed to focus exclusively on sourcing and pre-screening in order to generate a more robust candidate pipeline, allowing the company’s internal team to focus on bringing candidates through the remainder of the hiring process.

Given past challenges filling classes at a 1-to-7 hiring ratio, an intense effort was needed across all recruiting channels to find and onboard more qualified, well-matched candidates. Specific actions included:

  • Targeted candidate mining on Indeed, CareerBuilder, military, and LinkedIn platforms,
  • Two job fairs, including one held on a Saturday,
  • Granting VIP status to candidates who RSVP’d to a job fair, 
  • Targeted candidate recruitment to attend job fairs,
  • Explicitly asking all candidates for referrals,
  • Double-booking interview days to mitigate impacts of no shows.

Overall results were as follows (see chart below for a more detailed summary of results):

  • 468 out of 1,300 candidates passed phone screen
  • 232 candidates were interviewed (144 mined candidates, 88 from job fair)
  • 63 offers were accepted, translating to three full classes of 20+ candidates

graphic 4

Summary and Conclusions
Talent acquisition is a critical function of any successful organization. For organizations to effectively institute rapid talent acquisition, a number of key tactics must be employed:

  • Development of a thorough project plan,
  • Understanding the market’s labor supply and competitive pay,
  • Diversified sourcing and recruiting efforts,
  • Accurate and timely reporting of the status of those efforts,
  • Quick adjustments to overcome obstacles and challenges.


Robert Backes, East Pointe Consulting/Executive Vice President, Source2, has held senior human resources positions for 30+ years and has created and evolved HR programs, policies, and practices for rapidly growing companies. He represents Source2 Talent Acquisition Solutions and also performs human resources consulting assignments and projects. Robert can be reached at Rbackes@source2.com.

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Ask The IP Attorney

Provisional patent applications are the topic of this month’s Ask the IP Attorney Q&A.

If you have a burning intellectual property question, you can ask it by visiting the Q&A web page at www.ptslaw.com or emailing Tye Biasco at biasco@ptslaw.com. Answers to your questions will be posted here in the MA Insider.

Q: What’s the benefit of a provisional patent application if it doesn’t get examined?
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) allows inventors and assignees to file provisional patent applications before filing a utility patent application covering the same subject matter. Provisional patent applications do not get published or examined and expire after one year. Even without a substantive examination, provisional patent applications are a powerful tool for protecting intellectual property.

A provisional patent application can provide earlier protection for your invention. Since the move to a first-inventor-to-file (FITF) system in 2013 it has become more important than ever to have an application on file with the USPTO as soon as possible after developing a new innovation. A provisional patent application acts as a placeholder, providing the applicant with an early filing date for any features disclosed in the application. If a non-provisional utility application is filed within one year of the filing date of the provisional application, that utility application will be able to claim priority back to the filing date of the provisional. It’s especially important to get an application on file before disclosing the invention to others, whether by selling products, presenting at a trade show, or even working with suppliers.

A provisional patent application can also be less expensive to prepare and file. Currently, the fees for filing a provisional application are a fraction of the fees for filing a non-provisional utility application (which include search and examination fees). In addition, because the provisional application won’t be examined, it can be less formal, as long as all of the details that you want to protect are disclosed. One strategy that is commonly used is to file a provisional quickly after developing an idea, and then use the one year pendency period to test the market, scale up production, or even find investors. At the end of the year, if the product seems viable, a utility application can be filed with claims based on the actual products. Another strategy is to file a comprehensive provisional application in order to reduce the costs involved in preparing a utility application for examination.

In all, there’s much more power in a good provisional application than the all-important “Patent Pending” labeling. Smart provisional application strategies can result in better and more enforceable intellectual property rights at an efficient cost.

Patterson Thuente IP is a full-service intellectual property law firm, with offices in Minneapolis and Brookings, SD. Contact them at 612.349.5740.

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Engineering Studies: Why They Could Be The Best Thing You Do For Your Plant In 2016

What if you could reduce utility costs 5-20%, have a more comfortable work environment, and improve productivity and throughput?

Engineering Studies are a tool in your management tool belt to do just that. A study can also reduce operating costs and improve building performance. Simply put, studies can be to a building what a tune-up is to a vehicle.

The How-Tos Of A Successful Engineering Study
With a few simple steps, a plant manager or owner can execute a successful Engineering Study.

Schedule An Initial Consult With A Study Provider
At S.E.S., Inc., this initial consult is free. A consult will provide valuable information in four primary areas:

  1. Eligibility – a consult will determine a facility’s eligibility for studies and other rebate programs such as lighting, heating, cooling, etc.
  2. Rebate strategy – a consult will help develop a strategy to maximize rebates available.
  3. Internal resource requirements – a consult will give the customer an idea of the potential magnitude of the rebates. Knowing the rebate amount helps determine out-of-pocket costs as well as additional resources required.
  4. Management buy-in – by being more informed, you will have the knowledge critical to getting the buy-in you need from your management/ownership.

Get The Management Team And Maintenance Staff On Board With The Idea
Since business alignment is crucial to the success of a study, this is your next step. Let the information do the talking. Management often pays attention when one shows that a typical study will save between 5% and 20% of the annual gas or electric bill.

Example: A food processing plant operates 5 days a week, 24 hours per day, and has approximately 200,000 square feet of production space. About $50,000 to $200,000 in electric and gas reductions may be identified during the investigation process.

Identify And Connect With the Property's Utility Representatives
The utility representatives are a great resource and often understand the history of the property. In addition, they can save you paperwork time by providing bill history and other facility information required directly to the Engineering Service Provider electronically.

Initiate A Study With A Study Provider
A study provider will complete an  in-depth study, provide a report, and follow up with the project team to discuss associated energy saving opportunities, and building and production improvements. A study may provide the financial justification needed to address more complex and capital intense projects. Examples of this may include that new condensing boiler that was waiting until next summer, or a large controls upgrade that will improve the existing user- unfriendly system.

For more information, visit us on our website at ses-inc.org or contact us at support@ses-inc.org.


Case Study:

Uponor, Inc., Apple Valley, Minnesota
Year Founded:
Its origins go back to 1620 as Wirsbo in Virsbo, Sweden. Current corporate parent headquarters is Vantaa, Finland
24 hours/day, 7 days per week

Uponor, Inc., a Manufacturer’s Alliance partner, has worked with Xcel Energy, CenterPoint Energy, and associated consultants for a number of years and continues to build on past successes, especially in the area of sustainability. 2015 is no different. The Uponor team partnered with S.E.S., Inc. for engineering and technical measurement support to identify and develop strategies for additional process improvements.

The Uponor team provided detailed operation and technical information to S.E.S., Inc. This information and further investigation led to controls upgrade opportunities, HVAC improvements, and an air compressor upgrade. S.E.S., Inc. maintained close communication to Xcel Energy to garner additional incentives and rebates making larger capital investments more attractive. Ultimately, the project provided the technical and financial justification to make changes needed to:

1. Make tighter process control improvements

2. Reduce the energy intensity on a per foot basis

3. Improve equipment and process reliability

From A Director Point Of View – Rusty Callier:
At Uponor we believe in the triple bottom line – people, planet, and profit – and operational excellence. One does not take away from the other but need to balance and blend in a way that our actions, while sustainable, make for better people process and provide a return on our investment.

Uponor has had many successes working with S.E.S., Inc. over the past two years. All highlight some great story of collaboration, research, evaluating, testing, and implementing changes. A few do stand out more than others.

Here are some successes:

  • Air compressor upgrades have resulted in a 50% reduction of preventative maintenance (PM) costs
  • Electric cost per unit of compressed air has been reduced
  • Electric utility billing rate structure changes have resulted in substantial savings
  • Ability to speed up extruders while maintaining the same rate of kilowatt-hour consumption

While this list does not include all we have been able to accomplish partnering with S.E.S., Inc.,  it is a good representation of the relationship that has developed over the years. It is a lot to just keep up with growth and the daily grind of running a 24/7 operation, and having a trusted resource like S.E.S., Inc. in your corner to sniff out sustainability wins helps tremendously.

Matthew Strebe is a MN Licensed engineer and ASHRAE Certified professional at Sustainable Energy Savings, Inc.

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Hiring Successful Sales People

“I am convinced that nothing is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day, you bet on people not strategies.”- Lawrence Bossidy, COO of GE

Hiring the “right” person is almost always at the top of a business leaders “to-do” list. Over time I have had the opportunity to interview and hire hundreds of sales professionals. The good news is there are some fabulous sales pros out there!  They have the ability to take your product or service and run with it. The bad news is a thorough hiring process takes time and energy. What you put into finding the best candidate will strongly impact the quality of the person you hire.

When looking to make a new hire for a sales position, I don’t always look for a person with a ton of experience in the industry. With the right sales training in place, we can teach a person about the product, the customer and the competition. We can train future sales champions! What I look for when interviewing sales candidates are the traits/skills that cannot be trained, they are an inherent part of a person's personality:

Strong Work Ethic
There is absolutely no substitute for a person’s willingness to put in the time and effort needed to be successful. This is the #1 thing I seek to establish during the interviewing process. It usually comes through during the resume review. I also like to ask candidates to tell me about their very first job. Not necessarily something they put on their resume, but the very first time they were paid for completing any work. People who mowed lawns, waited tables or babysat when they were kids get extra points in my book. Another good indicator is to ask candidates to explain how they prepared for the interview. I like to hear about research they did on the company, the product or the position.

Positive Attitude
Folks who can see the “opportunity” instead of the “problem” are far more likely to be successful at sales because they are usually better able to create a positive experience for your customers. They are also more fun to have as team mates. (A quote from one of my favorite mentors, is, “there is no reason to pay someone to make you miserable.”) In the interview this usually comes out when I ask they why they are looking for a new opportunity. If it is just because they are unhappy in their current position, that raises a red flag.

Ambition | Achievement Orientation
The best salespeople are fixated on achieving goals and continuously measure their performance in comparison to their goals. When faced with a challenge, they find a solution. The person who hired me for my first “real” sales job said he always looked for someone who was hungry - meaning they are always striving for more. During the interview, ask the candidate about career goals. Folks who are unwilling to articulate their desire to be the best in their field may be overly challenged in the sales world.

According to the Harvard Business Review top salespeople are naturally more curious than their lesser performing counterparts. They seek to know more about the product/service they are selling, the company they are working for, what their clients want/need, and how they can grow within an organization. In the interview, these are the candidates who come to the interview with a long list of their own questions. NOTE: One of my interviewing Pet Peeves is when I ask the candidate if they have any questions and s/he says, “Nope I think you covered everything.” Seriously, how is that even possible? Be prepared!

In the interest of “saving time”, it can be tempting to hire experienced candidates that look great on paper. However, if they don’t have a strong work ethic, a positive attitude, ambition and natural curiosity they may not be the best long term fit. The cost of employee turnover can be very high. By taking the time to find the best fit for your company culture, the responsibilities of the position, and the needs of your customers, you are sure to build a more successful sales force.

Lynne Jensen-Nelson, President of Conversion-omics Sales Training, is a nationally recognized sales coach, trainer and keynote speaker. Her goal is to help clients maximize each and every selling opportunity. Learn more about her and the company at www.conversion-omics.com

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Building Companies on Purpose

2015 was a year for strategic planning. A Mechanical Contracting Company invested time in looking at the market conditions.

They took stock of their strengths and weaknesses - assessed their current reality and opportunities. They created a plan to grow.

What they identified as one of their top challenges AND opportunities, is also true for many companies: Attracting and retaining good people!

A key component to achieving their future vision lies in their ability to attract and retain talent. They are not alone. The competition for talent and the importance of talent in achieving success is being felt by many companies and promises to become an even tougher challenge in coming years. No surprise that companies with a culture built on Purpose have an advantage.

In the article, Building companies on Purpose from the August newsletter, I laid out a business case for companies making their Purpose clear and actionable. The process is called SCUBA: A deep dive process to discover and align your purpose and values

  • Set your Vision and Strengthen your Resolve
  • Commit to the journey
  • Unify everyone
  • Build community
  • Align everything

In the October article you were given some guidance on the first phase; Set your Vision and Strengthen your Resolve.

In this article I will explore the elements of Commit to the journey.

Commit to the journey
As a leader, when you commit to the journey of becoming a Purpose & Performance (P&P) company, you make a promise, to yourself and to the people you lead. You promise to be intentional in how your leadership impacts and shapes the evaluation and definition of your culture. Each decision, conversation and choice to invest in one thing or another creates ripple impacts. Doing this as a theme of the year doesn’t work, it must be a long term commitment to a way of being. If you placed yourself in your employee’s shoes, would you believe the words of your leadership team? Would you see actions that convince you that Purpose and Performance are both important in how the business is run? This description of commitment says it all:

Commitment is what transforms the promise into reality. 
It is the words that speak boldly of your intentions. 
And the actions which speak 
louder than the words. 
It is making the time When there is none. 
Coming through time After time after time, 
Year after year after year. 
Commitment is the stuff 
Character is made of; 
The power to change the face of things. 
It is the daily triumph 
Of integrity over skepticism.
by Ashbash January 13, 2005

So what does commitment look like in action for the Mechanical Contracting Company with their fresh strategic plan? These three things put them on the path to action:

1. Commitment to quarterly reflection: Do our words match our action? The leadership team prescheduled quarterly meetings with a commitment to discuss the question: How are we living up to our values and purpose? Without intentional reflection, we can miss opportunities to integrate our values and purpose with daily decisions. This team found that intentionally bringing their values into a compensation challenge deepened their commitment and helped shape better outcomes. Make time for discussion such as: are there any areas where we are out of alignment? Do our daily decisions reflect our commitments? What one or two actions can we take this quarter to bring greater alignment to our organization?

2. Create a 2016 communication plan. The leadership team scheduled sessions with small groups. Every employee was invited to be part of a small group session where they shared the strategic plan with values and purpose embedded into how they are accomplishing the future. Each of these small group sessions concludes with the question, “What is my part in creating this future?” This gives every employee a responsibility to be part of building the future together so it is broadly owned.

3. Create a Culture Engagement Team. A culture that delivers on the potential of P & P doesn’t happen overnight or on its own. The process of forming this culture requires an ongoing investment and a willingness to acknowledge where you fall short and have room to grow. You will never be fully there and you will always be on the way. Committing to the journey requires intentionally noticing what actions are helping you become more true to a way of being that lives authentically aligned. One powerful way to enlist others is through creating “A Culture Engagement Team.” Invite a team of people that represent your informal leaders from across the company. Enlist them in helping to create a movement, provide real feedback on how things are going and empowering them to challenge each other. This trusted team will keep your efforts grounded in the real issues that your people are experiencing day in and day out.

Commit… Be Intentional….Forming your culture is an ongoing journey.

Key Question: “How are we demonstrating commitment to Performance and Purpose?”

The next chapter dives into the area of “Unify Everyone” of the SCUBA process. This will map out a process for involving the entire company in the journey, enlisting each person to participate and build it together is the level of commitment necessary. There are no free rides; it’s not just the management’s job.  The work of building a P&P company belongs to everyone.

Diane Nettifee is founder and president of Magis Ventures, a company that helps leaders align values and purpose with strategic actions to create strong, sustainable organizations. She has experience in executive leadership in manufacturing and service industries. Visit the website at www.magisventures.com or email her at dnettifee@magisventures.com.

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MN Economic Outlook

The November Minnesota Business Conditions Index slumped to 41.1 from October’s 42.7.

Components of the index from the monthly survey of supply managers were new orders at 34.5, production or sales at 36.5, delivery lead time at 52.8, inventories at 39.5, and employment at 42.0. “U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that over the last 12 months, Minnesota lost 800 manufacturing jobs. Our surveys of supply managers in the state point to slight losses into the first quarter of 2016 as manufacturing exports slide even lower,” said Goss. 

Dr. Ernest Goss of Creighton University, used the same methodology as The National Association of Purchasing Management to compile this information. An index number greater than 50 percent indicates an expansionary economy, and an index under 50 percent forecast a sluggish economy, for the next three to six months.

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