Manufacturing Month in Benton County: Focusing on the Workforce of the Future

Manufacturing Month in Benton County: Focusing on the Workforce of the Future Main Photo

6 Oct 2021


Benton County is home to global manufacturing companies that are producing goods using the latest technologies and the raw materials that are plentiful in Minnesota. With Manufacturing Day kicking off on Friday, October 1, we at Benton Economic Partnership (BEP) are celebrating these companies for their employment opportunities and their innovations that grow our economy.

Manufacturing Day is Part of Manufacturing Month

Launched annually on the first Friday in October with events that continue throughout the month, MFG Day helps show the reality of modern manufacturing careers by encouraging thousands of companies and educational institutions around the nation to open their doors to students, parents, teachers, and community leaders. With the theme of “Creators Wanted,” the focus is on building the workforce of the future by educating America’s youth about the incredible career pathways full of opportunity for advancement and stability that modern manufacturing offers. 

Manufacturing Month Activities in Benton County

BEP is using this opportunity to call attention to the many manufacturing companies we have in our community. These manufacturers are leaders in technology and good workplace practices, produce high quality products, and consistently innovate to keep in step with and progress their industries. We are proud that these companies have made their home in Benton County. 

This year, businesses in central Minnesota will be hosting tours. Two of those companies are Blow Molded Specialties, Inc. in Foley and National Vision, Inc. in St. Cloud.

Blow Molded Specialties, Inc.

Blow Molded Specialties, Inc. (BMS) is a custom industrial blow molder in Foley specializing in the manufacturing and assembly of medium and large plastic parts to serve customers across several industries. Their products include headrests for ATVs, cooling ducts for ATVs, engine intake ducts for ATVs and over-the-road trucks, diesel fuel tanks for construction equipment, DEF tanks for over-the-road trucks, and 10-foot-long playground slides.

Benton Blow Molded Specialities“BMS is unique in industrial blow molding because we are one of very few molders that have such a wide range of press sizes,” said Doug von Arb, BMS President. “We have presses ranging from a two-pound part capacity up to 60-pound, and from a very small coolant recovery tank to a 10-foot slide. With this range of press sizes, we can mold just about any size of part our customers need without going to another blow molding company. Our parts get shipped to Mexico, Poland, Brazil, South Africa, and all over the United States.”

For Manufacturing Day, BMS is participating in the job fair, and hosting a small local group tour of the plant. Throughout the year, BMS actively engages with local high school robotics programs/teams and offers tours to them. “We donate to all robotics teams that come in for a tour,” said von Arb. 

When asked why working in the manufacturing sector is a desirable career path, von Arb said, “Manufacturing is cool, we make products for several ATV companies, we make hydraulic tanks, fuel tanks and cab parts for skid steers, backhoes, light towers, and portable air compressors.  You can see our parts everywhere and our folks take pride in the work they do for these companies. We have nine industrial robots to help our operators trim and finish parts, this is seriously cool equipment.”

“We do all our training in house,” said von Arb. “We also work with CLCC for certified robotics training and leadership training, and we also work with Enterprise Minnesota for training. Our plant is operating seven days per week 24 hours per day and we are hiring on all shifts. We currently employ 130 people here in Foley and we need to hire 21 more press operators at this time, and we are continuing to grow.”

“I grew up on a farm in Iowa and graduated from a small community college in Northwest Iowa with an AAS degree in ElectroMechanical Technology a long time ago,” said von Arb. “My career in manufacturing has provided me with many growth opportunities. I started my career as a Maintenance Technician then I moved on to engineering technician, quality engineer, quality manager, plant manager, division manager, director of operations, and then president. Manufacturing provides many opportunities for people who are engaged and willing to learn.”

National Vision, Inc.

In addition to being one of the largest optical retail companies in the United States with over 1,200 stores in 44 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, National Vision, Inc. also has an eyewear manufacturing facility in St. Cloud where they grind prescription lenses and assemble them into the frames.

For Manufacturing Day, National Vision plans to hold tours. “We have one of the most technologically advanced optical manufacturing facilities in the area. I plan to share it through facility tours,” said Chip Sexton, Director of Manufacturing for National Vision.

When asked why students should choose a career in his manufacturing facility, Sexton said that because eyeglasses are a medical necessity, the optical industry is stable, and there are opportunities for advancement. For its workforce, National Vision looks for strong life and communication skills, the ability to consistently show up ready to work, and team focus.

“Benton County is a great place for manufacturing,” said Sexton. “We seem to have a growing, diverse workforce with a strong work ethic. Also, Benton is a great place to live and work, no matter what your interests are. You can enjoy the Twin Cities and also enjoy all that the northern
Minnesota lakes provide without the traffic.”

To learn more about manufacturing opportunities in Benton County, contact BEP at 320-968-6197 or email us here. We can ease the process of finding a site, obtaining permits, constructing a facility, and hiring and training a workforce. 

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