May, 2017

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New and Renewing Members

Thank you to the following members who have recently joined or renewed your membership!

A Couple of Gurus
Acist Medical
ADO Products
Associated Financial Group
Atlas Manufacturing 
Baxter-Synovis Surgical 
BGD Companies
Bird & Cronin
Boulder Creek Stone 
Boyum & Barenscheer
Braun Intertec
Cannon Equipment
Caterpillar Paving 
Chart Industries 
Cirtec Medical
Control Assemblies 
CSM Bakery Products 
Cummins Power Generation
Dedicated Networks
Delkor Systems
Donatelle Plastics
Douglas Machine
Dynamic Group
Eco Finishing 
Engineered Products
Exlar Corp
Flex Craft
GE Water & Process Tech
GEA Process Engineering
General Label
Illume Candle
IRD Glass
Len Busch Roses
Metro Mold & Design
MTS Systems Corp
Owens Corning Roofing & Asphalt
Parker Quick Coupling
Phillips & Temro
Precision Punch & Plastics
Qumu Corp/Rimage
Silgan Containers
Sparton Corp
Stone Arch Capital
Takeda Pharmaceuticals
TEK Products
Unitron Hearing
Wanner Engineering 
Wilson Tool Intl

Completed Certifications

Congratulations to the following individuals who have completed their certification during March-May. Job well done!

Jerry Frank-Aqseptance Group
Blake Govro-Aqseptance Group
Paula Rothstein-Cretex 
Carrie Jenkins-Cretex 
Michelle Astrup-Cretex 
Brandon Hoeft-Cretex 
Renee Swanson-Cretex 
Kurt Willhite-Cretex 
Travis Ragland-Cretex 
Ko Vang-Cretex 
Lisa Harren-Cretex 
Mike Lawrence-Cretex 
Shiqin Chen-Cretex 
Sara Schurhamer-Cretex 
Andrea Rovella-Cretex 
Don Robasse-Cretex 
Jeff Somers-Cretex 
Rick Brennan-Cretex 
Steve Quam-Cretex 
Bryon Glem-Cretex 
Chad Harwell-Cretex 
Jared Zachman-Cretex 
Robin Hubbard-Cretex 
James Kolby-Cretex 
Dan Ullsperger-Loram
Lee Lake-Loram
Crystal Selchow-Loram
Ben Lazzari-MGK
Dave Lofgren-Thomson Reuters
Sue McNamara-Toro
Dale Lorge-Toro
John Rother-Toro
Seth Sundgaard-Toro
Steve Cochran-Travel Tags
Dale Schuch-Travel Tags
Josh Gottfried-Travel Tags
Amy Patterson-Travel Tags
Steve Tix-Travel Tags
Bob Bruno-Travel Tags
Bill Chute-Travel Tags
John Tomczyk-Travel Tags
Rick Stang-Travel Tags
Stacey Larson-Travel Tags
Shelly Cassellius-Travel Tags
Dave Peterson-Travel Tags
Mark Frontzak-Travel Tags
Matt Yost-Travel Tags
Mike Saros-Travel Tags
Sue Hanson-Travel Tags

PGC Earns Recognition

PGC has earned recognition as a Partner-level supplier for 2016 and was inducted into the Supplier Hall of Fame in the John Deere Achieving Excellence Program. PGC was selected for the honor in recognition of its dedication to providing products and service of outstanding quality as well as its commitment to continuous improvement.


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Article Index

2017 Manufacturer of the Year Awards
Article by: Lynn Moline

The annual awards ceremony brings local manufacturers together to celebrate and recognize companies that share information and experiences to strengthen the Minnesota manufacturing community.

Takt Time the Forgotten Principle of Lean Manufacturing
Article by: James Bertram

Takt time is one of the fundamental concepts of the Toyota Production system. I also believe it is one of the most misunderstood.

Manufacturer Goes from 0 to 1.5MM SKUs Online
Article by: Matt Timm

Talon Innovations is a contract manufacturer of machined components and provides services to industries like semiconductor capital equipment, medical devices & aerospace.

Understanding Your Value as a Tenant
Article by: Mike Bowen

Many manufacturers are 2nd and 3rd generation companies with an immense amount of pride, passion and “do it yourself” attitude.

MN Economic Outlook
Article by: Dr. Ernest Goss

The April Business Conditions Index for Minnesota slipped to a still strong 61.2 from March’s 61.8.

2017 Manufacturer of the Year Awards

The annual awards ceremony brings local manufacturers together to celebrate and recognize companies that share information and experiences to strengthen the Minnesota manufacturing community.

This year's winners are Midwest Industrial Tool Grinding, Inc.(MITGI), MGK, and Shutterfly Inc.

Midwest Industrial Tool Grinding, Inc. (MITGI)

Photo by Half Acre House,

Midwest Industrial Tool Grinding, Inc. (MITGI) manufactures and markets carbide cutting tools for use by other manufacturers. The primary industries MITGI serves are medical device, aerospace, automotive, rapid prototyping, and mold making. Nearing the 25th year in business, MITGI has experienced its most extraordinary growth within the past decade. 

Founded in 1993, MITGI began as a regrinding company. From the start, MITGI established a solid reputation for high quality work and set the expectation that we would provide consistent tool performance on every order. It was the combination of these two attributes that provided the foundation for business today.  With the addition of CNC machines and precision inspection equipment, MITGI has been able to provide customers with tighter tolerances, more complex features, and greater production capacity. The industries served operate on short deadlines and rapidly changing requirements; the ability to turn jobs around quickly has provided MITGI with a distinct competitive advantage. 

“Our core competencies include precision, quality, consistency, and customer focus,” describes Eric Lipke, MITGI President. “We recognize that without these four factors, our success would be limited. By always keeping in mind that we are working for our customers we can be both flexible and adaptable, which puts us in a good position for future growth.”

MISSION: Midwest Industrial Tool Grinding, Inc. is a superior, state-of-the-art, specialty CNC grinding technology partner to lead edge companies seeking strategic value from their tooling supplier.

VISION: To manufacture customer-specific tools of the highest quality, providing a lifetime of customer satisfaction.
“We were recently contacted by one of our customers who shared what his experience in working with MITGI has been like,” explains Jennie Nelson, MITGI Director of Sales and Marketing. “Over the past few weeks, we’d been able to solve an issue that had been plaguing his team for months. Accomplishing this task included teams from throughout the company: sales, customer service, engineering, manufacturing, and shipping. We approached the problem like we do all of our jobs, but it appeared to our customer that we went above and beyond. We’re proud that the way we approach work every day makes us stand out as a valued and trusted partner.”
“Our teams enjoy challenging work, the company culture, and are glad to work in a clean manufacturing environment,” explains Jeff Streich, Senior Account Manager. “Meeting the product requirements and timelines of our customers is essential for how we do business. We credit our employees for the excellent job they do to serve our customers every day.”

MITGI has placed a high priority on raising the visibility of manufacturing in Minnesota. The impact has been wide-spread, particularly in our local community where it is helping to build the foundation for a thriving community and well-prepared workforce. Over the past year MITGI has:

  • Attended seminars and hosted leadership events with the following organizations: Manufacturers Alliance, IMTS, Made in McLeod, Crow River HR Group, Minnesota DEED, Hutchinson Chamber, and Ridgewater College.
  • Hosted tours and company showcase events with the following groups: Senator Klobuchar and staff, Senator Franken’s staff, Redwood Falls Chamber Board, Made in McLeod, McLeod for Tomorrow, Crow River HR Group, Minnesota DEED, Redwood Valley Career and TechEd instructors, Hutchinson EDA, and area high schools/post-secondary schools.
  • Participated in an advisory capacity with area schools: Dassel-Cokato ALC, Dassel-Cokato Girls Welding/Wood Tech class, Hutchinson High School freshman careers class, Ridgewater College career prep and machine tool programs, Glencoe-Silver Lake Robotics and Engineering Advisory Committee, Dassel-Cokato CTE Advisory Committee, Hutchinson High School Tiger Path Advisory Committee (STEM group), Hutchinson high School Robotics Team, SCTCC career prep/machine tool program.

“On-site manufacturing provides us with a distinct advantage in the marketplace,” describes Eric Lipke, MITGI President. “Whether manufacturing standard tools or specials, we’re able to adjust our production schedule to meet the needs of our customers.  Later this fall we will add more standard tool lines, helping to reduce the potential lead time for many of our top-selling product categories.”
“Like many businesses, we strive to balance the equipment and people needed for our current workload with projections for the future,” describes Andrea Waller-Plath, MITGI General Manager. “Lead times for new equipment can be more than a year, and our workforce development strategy has components that range from months to years in length. Striking a balance between both is essential to the future success of our business.”

“Over the past decade, MITGI has dedicated company resources and employee talents to help students explore and prepare for careers in manufacturing,” explains Eric Lipke, MITGI President. “We’re proud of the collaborative environment that has developed in the Hutchinson community between Ridgewater College, Hutchinson Public Schools, Hutchison Area Chamber of Commerce, Hutchinson EDA, and Made in McLeod manufacturers. These efforts have resulted in new curriculum and school facilities, increased enrollment in manufacturing related classes, alignment between students and local employers, and potential cost savings for graduates.”
“We’re hiring, we have capacity, and we’re ready,” shares Jennie Nelson, MITGI Director of Sales and Marketing. “Over the past decade we’ve invested in adding people and equipment. We have room in the schedule for more business and have trained, qualified employees to do the work. We’re well positioned for growth with existing customers, expanded geographic coverage, and targeted customer acquisition.”


Photo by Half Acre House,

It’s quite likely that MGK has made life healthier and more pleasant for every reader of this article. Whenever you visit a restaurant, sit outdoors on a summer evening, tend your garden, or eat wholesome food, you could well be benefiting from the insect control products MGK develops and markets.

MGK’s fascinating story begins in the first years of the 20th century when three men named McLaughlin, Gormley, and King (the original “MGK”) built a business importing and grinding spices like cinnamon and pepper and a variety of botanicals used mostly in pharmaceuticals. Among the botanicals the company traded in, and used itself to protect the spices during shipping, was pyrethrum, a natural insecticide derived from dried chrysanthemum flowers.

Recognizing the economic value of pyrethrum, the founders in the 1920s hired a chemist who devised a way to standardize the extraction and refining of the compound. Soon the company had narrowed its business to just spices and pyrethrum.

But as current company president Steve Gullickson, a fourth generation descendant of one of the founders, explained it, “My great grandfather and his partners ran both the spice and the insecticide product lines for many years, but by the 1960s they’d fallen behind the competition in the spice business.” Fortunately, demand for pyrethrum was growing and the company knew how to serve that market, so the insect control solutions company we know today emerged.

Today MGK formulates and markets a wide range of branded insect control products for insecticide marketers and users around the globe. The products are mostly based on natural pyrethrum and synthetic pyrethroids to produce solutions that have lower environmental impact than other kinds of insecticides. The company is vertically integrated in the pyrethrum business, from growing to extracting to formulating the end product.  On the synthetics side, MGK works with partners worldwide to access new technologies and develop new formulas for custom applications.

The company has about 125 employees in the Metro area, 15 field service people across the US, and about 100 others in Africa where MGK sources and extracts the chrysanthemums needed to make pyrethrum.  

Custom formulation is one reason customers appreciate doing business with MGK. In addition, Gullickson explained, the company makes regulatory compliance easier for customers because it maintains EPA registrations. MGK also prides itself on exceptional customer service, including fast response to unexpected pest control needs such as the outbreak of insect-borne disease. “If the customer isn’t successful then neither are we,” he said.

To this point, VP Finance and CFO Randy Nelson added that integrity underlies everything the company does. “We are grounded in public health and our products work. Our efficacy targets are higher than competitors’, and we were doing product efficacy testing before the EPA required it. ”

That integrity, together with a strong ethic of humility, is what led to MGK winning the Manufacturer of the Year Award. “We’re curious and we know we need to be humble enough to ask questions if we’re going to learn. So we work hard to learn and apply other companies’ best practices and we share ours,” Nelson said. The company even shared quality control staff with a neighboring company to cross-pollinate learning and best practices. He said they believe it’s OK to say “I’m not perfect, I need help.”

Gullickson explained that humility and integrity powered a massive culture change in the 1990s.  “We used to be very top down, but employees have great ideas and we just had to have the humility to accept their ideas. When we started supporting an open-book environment, great ideas come from everywhere.”

Nelson added, “We’re also a family first culture. We come down hard on managers who don’t embrace that.” As Nelson spoke, Gullickson produced a printed card containing the company’s values; the second one is “value each employee by cultivating a positive work-life balance based on trust, respect, teamwork.” Another value is “continuous improvement” and both leaders emphasized that every employee is incented for improvement and that all employees have an owner’s mentality and commitment.

Although the company was sold in 2012 to Sumitomo Chemical, MGK has persisted in maintaining its own distinctive, rich culture. “When we sold the company,” Gullickson said, “We were very concerned about our culture and our employees.”    

What’s next for MGK? Continued partnerships and improvement are certainly in the plans. And so is continued growth via new product development and market share expansion in the sector they know best—insect control for a healthy, livable environment. 


Photo by Half Acre House,

You’re new in town. You have a big job to do but you don’t know a soul. What do you do? You join groups and invite people over.

That’s the formula Shutterfly’s local management team adopted in 2014 when the billion dollar company opened a production facility in Shakopee, MN. That “open door” practice has become a habit that continues to benefit the company and the community.

Shutterfly, headquartered in Redwood City, CA, makes unique, personalized photo products that allow customers to preserve memories and share stories. Established in 1999 as a printer of digital photographs, the company has grown rapidly thanks to both acquisition and to innovation-fueled organic expansion. Today its product line includes books, gifts, home decor, greeting cards, invitations, stationery, and more, all accessed via online ordering.

The impressive Shakopee plant is the newest of three manufacturing facilities the company operates. Jamie Riddle, the plant’s senior director of operations and a ten year veteran of the company, moved to Minnesota in 2014 when the company broke ground for the new plant. “We had plants in South Carolina and Arizona. But we needed a centrally located production facility to enhance delivery for our customers, who expect and deserve high quality and want it tomorrow,” he said.

Riddle explained that starting up operations in a new region came with its challenges, most notably learning the regional culture, building an efficient operation from the get-go, and finding employees. To help get acclimated, he and his team began partnering and sharing best practices with local companies, including getting involved with the Manufacturers Alliance. “Reaching out to other companies and sharing ideas has been good for us, and continuous improvement is natural for us—we’re built for improvement.”

If improvement is a foundation for Shutterfly, passion is the cornerstone. “We hire for drive and passion,” Riddle said. “We look for people who are passionate about our customers and the kinds of products we make. We’re a technology company that manufactures things, but we don’t so much hire for occupational expertise as we do for how employees treat people and how they fit with our corporate values.

Initially, Shutterfly opened in Shakopee with 90 employees; today, just three years later, it employs 230 people full time plus about 100 contractors at non-peak times. However, during its 10-week peak period around the holidays, when the company generates fully half of its annual revenue, the contractor ranks triple or quadruple.

Finding passionate people to fill those seasonal positions is especially challenging but Shutterfly is up to the task. “One of our metrics is how many contractors return,” Riddle said. “What I’m most proud of is our culture and how our team practices our values and helps instill them in other employees. If we don’t create something good here, we aren’t going to keep people, and Amazon is just down the street.”

The competition for employees is yet another reason Shutterfly has an “open door” to the community. During the interview for this article, a dozen or more teenagers walked into the facility’s foyer. The teens were German exchange students, there for a tour as part of an internship program Shutterfly created with Shakopee High School. Through the program, a number of students spend several hours of their school day at Shutterfly learning such skills as graphic arts and communication. The students then apply their new skills in internship positions at Shutterfly or at other local businesses that have also begun to participate in the program.

In addition to sponsoring this internship program, Shutterfly employees will teach classes at a new engineering and technology center scheduled to open soon at Shakopee high school.

By all indicators, Shutterfly is meeting with success at the new Shakopee plant, but Riddle and his team don’t take that success for granted. “We need to constantly look at our service, which for us means speed and quality,” Riddle noted. “Our customers trust us with memories—the most valuable things people have. We owe them the best we can possibly provide.”

At regular town hall meetings with employees Riddle and his leadership team focus on quality and what the company’s work means to customers. “We have to morph our thinking to the entire customer experience. Fortunately, our people love to learn and see what else is out there. So sharing best practices and learning from other companies is how we keep the ball moving forward.”

Lynn Moline is a consultant, trainer, coach, and speaker who helps companies achieve through effective leadership, planning, and decision making. Contact her at

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Takt Time the Forgotten Principle of Lean Manufacturing

Takt time is one of the fundamental concepts of the Toyota Production system. I also believe it is one of the most misunderstood.

In many Lean organizations, if I were to ask, “What is takt time?” The typical answer I get back is something like, “How long it takes someone to complete their standard work.”

Unfortunately, that answer isn’t correct, that answer is actually cycle time. So in our years of Lean implementation, we have lost touch with one of the key principles of Lean and lost a technique that helps drive improvement in our organizations.

So what is takt time? Takt time is a calculated number that tells us the rate of production that is required to satisfy customer demand. The formula itself is…


The market (takt time) isn’t influenced by your existing processes, takt time has no preconceived notions about your organization. Since the market is an external force, when the market changes, you will be forced to re-evaluate your work, which will force you to improve it.

This excerpt is from the Manufacturers Alliance's educational blog. This member benefit follows suit with our mission by focusing on sharing the best practices and lessons learned from experienced manufacturing peers to help members continuously improve. Read more of this excerpt Here.

James Bertram is a continuous improvement engineer for Starkey Hearing Technologies. He can be reached at

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Manufacturer Goes from 0 to 1.5MM SKUs Online

Talon Innovations is a contract manufacturer of machined components and provides services to industries like semiconductor capital equipment, medical devices & aerospace.

In addition to their purely contract manufacturing business, they also have a line of proprietary gas and liquid delivery products including diaphragm valves that are sold primarily into the semiconductor industry. Talon has experienced explosive growth over the past 5 years, and a marketing audit determined that the company’s internet presence no longer resembled their actual business. They had dramatically outgrown the image that they were portraying online.

The company decided to launch a project to develop a new website, and Talon decided to take the leap into an eCommerce site. What’s interesting about this particular project is that even though the site is eCommerce, NONE of the products can actually be purchased online. Everything is custom quoted at Talon because orders are generally for volume production.

Rather than allowing a site visitor to place an order online, they have the ability to create a BOM for quoting by sales. This feature is essentially a “Wishlist” but with customized workflows to allow the sales organization to manage BOM RFPs. Entire assemblies can be created by a site visitor which has the potential to reduce loading on the engineering resources that typically provide this function.

The exercise of creating this new website was the catalyst for Talon to develop a comprehensive list of all the various permutations of diaphragm valves, fittings and accessories. Every potential size, surface finish and configuration equates to over 1.5MM SKUs. They may never actually sell many of these SKUs, but going through the exercise has built the foundation for them to offer a comprehensive solution online. Eventually the company may offer a full online eCommerce option with integration to their ERP system. But until the company is ready to make this final transition, their web presence reflects the full breadth of the company.

There is rapid growth in the adoption of eCommerce sites in the B2B space. Even if a company does not have standard pricing throughout their product or service offering, the structure of an eCommerce site may be the right solution to organize content and improve the user experience. Don’t let the thought that “we don’t have standard pricing,” or even standard products, prevent you from considering this path.

The most important lesson from this exercise is to ensure that your online image is keeping pace with your actual capabilities, size and culture. As companies invest, grow and mature these evolutions are apparent as employees, customers and prospects enter the physical plant every day. Make certain that your online image is also pacing with these changes. Often the people who are evaluating your online image don’t know about what’s happening IN your plant because they haven’t been there yet. Don’t get judged prematurely by not even getting a swing at the prospect. Whether your online image is in an eCommerce framework or a more traditional brochure site, it should reflect a modern design, have features that people have come to expect, and portray your brand and the breadth of your capabilities effectively.

Matt is the Managing Partner at Magnetic North, a Digital Marketing Agency. Prior to founding Magnetic North, Matt spent his career in executive leadership positions in numerous technology and manufacturing companies. Matt can be reached at

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Understanding Your Value as a Tenant

Many manufacturers are 2nd and 3rd generation companies with an immense amount of pride, passion and “do it yourself” attitude.

Which is why, in my line of work, I often receive immediate pushback when offering to help a client negotiate a lease renewal. These companies have been accustomed to negotiating EVERYTHING on their own, forever. And why would they change that now?

In this article I am going to touch on three reasons why engaging a commercial real estate advisor, even on a lease renewal, is a prudent business decision – 1) the opportunity cost for a landlord to re-tenant a space is substantial, 2) inherent conflicts of interest exist in lease negotiations and 3) the possibility of a move may be more of a reality than you originally thought.

1. Opportunity Costs
When a tenant moves out of a space, significant costs are incurred by the landlord in order to find a new tenant. These costs include paying real estate taxes, common area maintenance expenses and debt service, marketing and advertising expenses and significant dollars to reconfigure a space to suit a new tenants needs. These costs are substantially greater than the cost to renew a tenant’s lease. A good commercial real estate advisor will help you leverage the fact that you, as a tenant, are incredibly valuable to the success of the real estate asset and moving will be extremely detrimental to the landlord. Additionally, even though the landlord will ultimately compensate the tenant’s advisor, most landlords appreciate the value and educational process an advisor brings to their tenant client. They value this service because a) it ultimately leads to a smoother transaction and b) the landlord has already underwritten the cost of a brokerage fee. Any fee that goes unpaid is money in their pocket. Additionally, the presence of a prudent advisor with a strong reputation in the market will force the landlord to take you, as the occupier, much more seriously, ultimately leading to greater cost savings.

2. Inherent Conflicts
When renegotiating a lease with a tenant, most landlords will, in some capacity, engage a broker on their side to become educated on the marketplace and receive proper guidance and expectations on the lease renewal. As a tenant or occupier, it is important to realize that this presents an inherent conflict of interest. The interest at hand is rent and the landlord’s return on their investment. While you may have a great relationship with your landlord, their primary interest is obtaining the highest rent possible with the lowest out-of-pocket expenses. Your interests, as the tenant, are the exact opposite. Additional conflicts arise when realizing that most landlords own a large portfolio of real estate. While you may be a great businessperson who excels at manufacturing, the fact of the matter is that you don’t do real estate every day. Your landlord does. You need to understand the right questions to ask. You need to become educated on what can and should be negotiated.

3. Moving May Be a Reality
As you navigate your lease renewal, it is important to take the time to fully vet out other space options, regardless of whether or not a move is of any consideration. Through this vetting process, you may encounter a landlord, building or opportunity that ultimately presents itself as a better long-term solution for your business. Perhaps your current space is functionally obsolete, perhaps over the years your business has changed and operational efficiencies can be realized in a new facility, perhaps your space is dated and prevents you from hiring top talent, perhaps you encounter a perfect building with a landlord that is extremely motivated to earn your tenancy. While moving may be very expensive, it could become a reality. Landlords are often willing to offer a) moving allowances and b) significant improvement funds to provide a “turn-key” space. Additionally, if you are adding jobs or making significant capital improvements to your real estate, numerous government programs exist to help fund these costs. Economic incentives resulting in millions of dollars in savings can often times be achieved, making your move to a more ideal facility a reality.

At a minimum, I simply encourage prospects and clients to do their homework. Ask questions. Obtain an expert opinion on your lease. Understand any liabilities you may face in the future, however unlikely. Address the lease renewal process, at a minimum, six months prior to your lease expiration. Don’t treat real estate as an afterthought. Do these things and ultimately your real estate position will be secure. Then you can focus on doing what you do best, manufacturing

Mike Bowen is a commercial real estate advisor with CBRE Brokerage Services–Industrial Specialty. He can help answer questions about sale/leasebacks, whether or not it may be right for your business or how you can go about exploring this investment option. Contact him at or 952-924-4885.

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MN Economic Outlook

The April Business Conditions Index for Minnesota slipped to a still strong 61.2 from March’s 61.8.

Components of the overall April index from the monthly survey of supply managers were new orders at 61.8, production or sales at 64.1, delivery lead time at 55.1, inventories at 61.7, and employment at 63.2. “Minnesota’s overall nonfarm job growth over the past 12 months was 1.5 percent which was above the region’s 0.9 percent and equal to the nation’s 1.5 percent. Creighton’s survey results over the past several months indicate that Minnesota job and economic growth will exceed the national average through the third quarter of this year,” 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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