First District Rep. Jim Hagedorn stopped by MRG Tool and Die Monday to talk about small business issues and workforce development and tour the company’s state-of-the art facility.
In a wide ranging conversation, Rep. Hagedorn and MRG President Rodney Gramse discussed issues such as regulatory policy and workforce development.
Faribault’s MRG manufactures a wide variety of specialty tools, molds and fixtures for local, national and international companies. They have worked on projects ranging from molding interior parts for several recent sports cars, to providing parts for a future space telescope, to manufacturing pieces of a skyscraper in Denver, Colorado. Many of the companies that rely most on MRG’s services are much closer to home, including SageGlass, Faribault Foods, Northern Tool and Tru Vue.
“We’re doing stuff here in Faribault that has an impact across the country and across the world,” said MRG President Rodney Gramse.
MRG was founded by Rodney’s father Mike in 1979. By retaining many of their original employees, the Gramses were able to grow MRG into a sustainable business by filling an essential niche in the local economy.
In 2009, MRG completed an expansion that nearly doubled the size of its Faribault facility and greatly expanded its capacities. In 2012, Minnesota Business Magazine named MRG its Small Manufacturer of the Year and in 2015 Mike Gramse received the Magazine’s Lifetime of Achievement in Manufacturing award.
Hagedorn is not the first elected official to tour MRG’s facility — in 2011, then-Sen. Al Franken visited and received a tour from then-President Mike Gramse.
Rodney Gramse noted that nearly all of MRG’s employees live within a 20-30 mile radius of Faribault, and the company works closely with South Central College and other community colleges and high schools in the area to develop highly skilled employees.
Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce Director Nort Johnson noted that a robust economy has contributed to a shortage of skilled labor here in Faribault and other communities. Johnson said that increasing the number of class periods at Faribault High School from six per day to seven is one reform that could help address the workforce shortage.
Faribault Public Schools will ask voters in November to approve an operating levy if approved, will pay for the increase in class periods at the district’s high school.
“We have fantastic companies like MRG that pay great wages for entry level and beyond manufacturing careers,” Johnson said. “(Switching to seven class periods) will give students eight more academic opportunities to prepare for their careers and explore some of the great manufacturing opportunities we have around here.”
Rep. Hagedorn, who serves on the U.S. House’s Small Business Committee, said he Monday that he’s committed to addressing the workforce shortage with reforms at the federal level. He touted the importance of bipartisan legislation like the JOBS Act co-sponsored by Louisiana Democrat Cedric Richmond and Ohio Republican Anthony Gonzalez, which would ensure that students enrolled in technical and vocational training programs have access to Pell Grants.
Minnesota is well represented on the Small Business Committee, with Hagedorn serving alongside newly elected Reps. Angie Craig and Pete Stauber.
After touring MRG’s facility, Hagedorn praised its innovative technology, highly trained workforce and vital role in the local economy.
“The people that are hired here and run the company go to our local schools and shop at our main streets … contributing to the local economy and sustaining and enhancing our way of life,” said Rep. Hagedorn. “It’s very important that we work together to make sure that they have every chance to prosper.”