Representatives from Blooming Prairie’s manufacturing community were recognized with certificates of commendation Wednesday afternoon at an appreciation luncheon at the City Center. Pictured from left to right: David Price with Arkema, Lowell Meyer and Dennis Heimerman with Metal Services, Luke Swenson with Minimizer, Kevin Christianson with Smooth Moves and Barb Peterson with Extreme Powder Coating. (Ashley Stewart/People’s Press)

BLOOMING PRAIRIE — Representatives from Blooming Prairie’s manufacturing community gathered Wednesday afternoon for a luncheon held in recognition of Minnesota Manufacturing Week.

The luncheon, which is hosted by the Blooming Prairie Area Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Blooming Prairie Economic Development Authority, is held annually in October to celebrate the manufacturing community and its contributions to the city over the years.

“When people ask me what stands out to me about Blooming Prairie, I always say the manufacturing community here is phenomenal, and I mean that as it’s a phenomenon how connected you guys are, how successful you guys are,” said Tom Monson, community and business development specialist with Community and Economic Development Associates.

Blooming Prairie — a community of nearly 2,000 people — is home to at least 10 manufacturers that employ more than 200 people.

“The number of successful and homegrown businesses in this community is really impressive to me,” Monson said.

Luke Swenson, chamber president and materials manager at Minimizer, opened the luncheon Wednesday by sharing about his passion for manufacturing in the area, one that was started before he joined the workforce thanks to his father’s longtime employment at Arkema.

“For basically my entire life, manufacturing in this town has supported me,” he said, noting his nearly 11 years at Minimizer. “... If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be here and a lot of folks wouldn’t be. It’s great for everyone who lives in this community [and] the schools.”

Representatives from the community’s manufacturers received certificates of commendation from the governor’s office during the luncheon, which were presented by Blooming Prairie Mayor H. Peterson with a handshake.

Employees from Arkema, Extrema Powder Coating, Metal Services, Minimizer and Smooth Moves attended the luncheon, which featured salad, lasagna, breadsticks and dessert from George’s of Geneva.

Before going into a presentation about manufacturing trends and opportunities by Workforce Development Inc.’s Area Manager Sonji Davis and Manufacturing Liaison Julie Olson, Monson took a moment to extend congratulations to Kevin Christianson, owner of Smooth Moves, for hitting the $1 million threshold in sales for the first time in September as well as Tyler Mundy, owner of Heavy Metal, for being named the Small Business Person of the Year in southeast Minnesota by the Small Business Development Center.

“This group here in this community is really fantastic, and that’s something I don’t want to take for granted,” Monson said. “Thank you all for making Blooming Prairie, Blooming Prairie.”

The Blooming Prairie luncheon is part of Manufacturing Week, a statewide public celebration.

On Sept. 23, Gov. Mark Dayton issued a proclamation declaring Oct. 2 to 8 Manufacturing Week in Minnesota to educate the public about manufacturing’s role in the state’s economy and highlight opportunities within the industry.

Manufacturing provides more than 317,000 Minnesota jobs, while contributing $48.2 billion to the state’s economy. This output represents 16 percent of Minnesota’s gross domestic product and accounted for nearly $20 billion in state exports in 2015, according to the proclamation.

Olson emphasized industry’s impact in southeastern Minnesota and the state. She said 16 percent of the jobs in the area and 13 percent of the jobs in the state are manufacturing, and each direct manufacturing position supports 13 other jobs, including supplier purchases and employee spending.

“When they say manufacturing is the backbone of the state, it really is the backbone in the state,” she said.

Peterson signed a mayor’s proclamation declaring it Manufacturing Week in the city, too.

“I just want to thank the city for recognizing the importance of manufacturing in our town,” Monson said.

Becky Noble, chamber director, agreed.

“On behalf of the chamber, we thank you because you do bring a lot of jobs in. We’re pretty proud of our manufacturers,” she said.

Reach reporter Ashley Stewart at 444-2378 or follow her on @OPPashley

Owatonna People's Press reporter covering Steele County, Blooming Prairie and Medford government as well as health, transportation and community happenings. University of St. Thomas graduate.

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