BAXTER — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., made a stop at LINDAR Corp. in Baxter Wednesday as part of her ongoing “Made in America” economic tour that’s designed to showcase successful Minnesota businesses and job creation.
The stop at LINDAR was one of four stops planned on Klobuchar’s two-day tour. Business stops in Park Rapids, Bemidji, Grand Rapids and Duluth were also part of the senator’s itinerary. Since late October, Klobuchar has visited nearly 20 businesses in Minnesota.
“This tour was incredibly impressive,” Klobuchar said to a group of area dignitaries after touring LINDAR. “(LINDAR) and its leaders made it through the economic downturn and have been successful.”
LINDAR, owned by Tom Haglin, is a plastics thermoforming company that specializes in stock plastic containers and custom plastic parts for the paint sundry, food packaging, retail packaging, medical parts and packaging and custom industrial component markets. The company is located in the Baxter Industrial Park. Haglin said the company began in 1993 with 15 employees and today there are 95 employees.
Dignitaries on the tour with Klobuchar included Haglin and his wife Ellen, Rep. John Ward, DFL-Brainerd, Baxter Mayor Darrel Olson; Brainerd School Superintendent Steve Razidlo, Central Lakes College President Larry Lundblad; Mary Gottsch, Brainerd Lakes Chamber and director of the Bridges Workplace Connection, Cheryl Hills, director of Region Five Development Commission and John Gunstad of Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corporation.
Klobuchar asked Haglin several questions about the company, including if LINDAR had any job openings.
Haglin said the company has job openings, but they continue to struggle with filling positions because there are not enough highly skilled workers to fill them. Haglin said it has cost the company a lot of money over the years in training employees, who don’t always stay with LINDAR. Haglin said he is working with CLC on a training program that would teach students, emphasizing the operational side as opposed to the machinery side. Klobuchar said LINDAR is not alone, as many manufacturing businesses across the state struggle with finding highly qualified employees, noting that a company in Benson had 60 highly skilled job openings. Klobuchar said she’s always telling people that vocational degrees are not “your grandfather’s degree anymore.” Klobuchar said the degrees educate students on highly technical skills in technology and there are job openings in the state. Klobuchar said students in Minnesota need to be aware that manufacturing jobs are viable and pay well.
“We need to get out of this economic downturn and we need to make an investment in these training skills,” said Klobuchar. “Minnesota is ahead of the curve with its education.”
Lundblad and Razidlo both spoke about how the schools have been working together with businesses in educating students about manufacturing jobs, including doing job shadows. Razidlo said Brainerd High School just started a new manufacturing class that will begin next semester and there are 20 students enrolled.
Hills said Region Five has been looking at more on-the-job training opportunities on specific skills. She said that it’s important for high school students to involved in career counseling and for businesses and schools to develop working connections.
Ward said he is thankful for all the manufacturing businesses in the lakes area. Ward said these area businesses are “all doing OK” even though Brainerd’s unemployment rate among cities of 10,000 or more ranks as the highest in the state.
Olson said he’s pleased that Haglin has kept LINDAR in Baxter and he’s proud of its success. Olson said Baxter has been doing well in the past few months as more businesses are building within the city and that will be good for the economy.
Klobuchar also asked Haglin if the grants and programs offered to businesses worked for LINDAR. Haglin said the grants have been helpful and said they’ve helped his company purchase needed equipment.
Klobuchar serves as chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation and Export Promotion. She has also introduced the “Innovate America Act” to promote innovation and boost America’s ability to compete in the global economy.
Klobuchar said she plans to return to the Brainerd lakes area for future events.
JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5851.