Focus on Education: Hot Jobs Cool Companies

March 8, 2017 No Comments
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by Della Schmidt

toc_columns50pxGo anywhere in the world and you are likely to encounter something that has been touched by Winona. In every industry, on every corner of the globe, products that originated here are part of people’s daily lives.

From the soothing liniments of Watkins to the innovative plastics of RTP, from the rugged chains of the Peerless Industrial Group to upscale St. Croix sweaters from Knitcraft, Winona has been a hotbed for big ideas.

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In fact, the number of global companies that trace their roots to the charming streets of Winona – more than 100 – is staggering by any standard. Badger Foundry and Behrens Manufacturing have added machining brawn to the nation’s industrial framework for the better part of a century. CHS and Bay State Milling have been shipping and grinding grains for even longer. Thern, National Chemical, and Cytec have built names for themselves in the nation’s hoist, cleaning product, and plastics industries.

Innovation and growth continue as trademarks. Coda Bow, PlatiComp, Celanese, CPI Core Molded Technologies, and PlastiCert are on the cutting edge of the composites industry. Powerhouses like Benchmark and Watlow have been here from the start, propelling the community into a future of possibilities limited only by the imagination.

But there is a threat on the horizon: a shortage of skilled workers.

In response, the Winona Area Chamber of Commerce created the Business Education Network (BEN), a pilot project of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. The initiative is a proactive approach to synchronize workforce skills with the needs of the changing economy. The goal is to narrow the workforce skills gap by connecting employers with high school and college students, and with higher education and workforce training systems.

In 2015 the Winona Area Chamber BEN committee launched Hot Jobs Cool Companies, a publication and website for high school and college students.

By showcasing our manufacturing and technology companies, we hope to attract more people to live, work, and do business here. The publication shows real-time hiring needs and highlights companies and jobs in our community.

The publication is also intended to spur additional engagement between businesses and educational institutions.

Hot Jobs Cool Companies is the successful outcome of a strong partnership. The Winona Area Chamber of Commerce, Winona State University College of Business, Winona Area Public Schools, City of Winona, Winona County Economic Development Authority, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, and more than 100 Winona area businesses have made the project a reality.

Spinoff projects include a website, jobs video, and an interactive story map with real-time links to local manufacturing employers. Visit to learn more.

A student-focused project called “REACH” is intended to bridge the gap between classroom curriculum and local workforce needs by providing opportunities for Winona Senior High School juniors to take part in an immersion experience that will focus on work preparedness, improved academic performance, and internships.

The strategy mobilizes our employers – the players with the most at stake in ensuring Minnesota’s workforce is well prepared. Building these networks will help narrow the skills gap, plus encourage students to complete their education in areas where they will have opportunities for meaningful employment. That’s a win-win for everyone.pm_endmarkred-e1320337243152

DELLA SCHMIDT is the president of the Winona Area Chamber of Commerce. She can be reached at or 507-454-8814.

Copyright © 2017 Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association. For permission to use or reprint this article please contact Nancy Huddleston, publications manager for Precision Manufacturing Journal.


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