Interference: Favre upstages manufacturing industry event

Public Insight Editor Andrew Haeg posts on a story missed as the media focused on Favre.

Minnesota was visited by two ineluctable forces on Wednesday: tornadoes and Favre fever.

The tornadoes missed the North Oaks Golf Club in St. Paul, but an F0 Favre funnel descended on a little-heralded event, where 170 representatives from the state’s manufacturing industry–including 3M, Medtronic, Toro and St. Jude Medical–gathered to hear about developments in a fascinating sector known as Low Volume Manufacturing.

Here’s the skinny on LVM: New machines enable companies to quickly design and create incredibly intricate components in days instead of weeks, reducing time to market and enabling them to get products in customers hands more quickly. It’s part of a larger industry known as Rapid Prototyping (Eden Prairie-based Stratasys is a major player), which is revolutionizing the manufacturing industry and may usher in a Jetson’s-like future.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty was at the golf club to give a keynote, to support the nascent but growing rapid prototyping business, and to take a moment to highlight the manufacturing industry, which has been a pillar of the state’s economy and was one of the few bright spots in yesterday’s unemployment report.

A smattering of media showed up to hear the guv. What do you think they asked him about? About the highly finished, intricately detailed, pressure-tested, functional parts that companies like host Vista Technologies can create in a fraction of the time it used to take — using really cool rapid prototyping machines? Or about Minnesota’s new BFF, BF?

To the chagrin of event host Vista’s marketing chief (and new Public Insight Network source) Allen Mishek, they instead grilled Pawlenty for 10 minutes on whether Brett Favre’s arrival would boost chances for a new stadium. In terms of economic development, who knows? Favre could end up having more short-term impact than low-volume manufacturing or rapid prototyping.

Still, the manufacturing sector accounts for one out of 10 jobs in Minnesota. As MPR News’ Annie Baxter reported, the industry has lost a shocking 100,000 jobs since mid-2000 (largely due to the collapse in the construction industry). Any bright spots, even small ones, should be latched onto like the local press corps to a bullet-passing aging quarterback.

And, hey, if you’re looking for work in this field, both Stratasys and Vista are hiring.

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