Photo courtesy of iStockphoto

The State of Minnesota Manufacturing

MN DEED Commissioner Shawntera Hardy shares progress to date


Minnesota Business is gearing up for the 2017 Manufacturing Awards, slated for September 28 at ARIA in downtown Minneapolis. This year, we’re thrilled to have Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Commissioner Shawntera Hardy on emcee duty.

“We’re focused on highlighting Minnesota’s major industries,” says Hardy, a 2016 (Real) Power 50 honoree, “and manufacturing is always at the top of the list.”

Hardy is particularly eager to discuss DEED’s work to address a worsening problem that, left untreated, threatens to undermine the state’s manufacturing base and erode its economic competitiveness.

“One of the biggest issues DEED is facing right now is how to handle a workforce shortage across the state,” says Hardy. “This applies particularly to manufacturers, as many jobs in that industry require specific skills.”

The numbers tell the story. The most recent available figures show approximately 97,000 open positions across Minnesota, says Hardy: “About a one-to-one ratio when compared against the number of people currently looking for work.”

In other words, many willing candidates simply aren’t suited to the open positions for which they’re applying. They lack the requisite credentials, certifications, and acquired skills to fill increasingly specialized, technology-driven manufacturing roles.

DEED has nearly 70 workforce development programs, many of which cater to the state’s manufacturing base. They include partnerships with local workforce boards, on-the-job training initiatives such as internships and apprenticeships, career readiness initiatives like Pathways to Prosperity, grantmaking programs, and synergies with other state agencies.

“We want employees to be ready and able to work when they show up at a new job,” says Hardy.

Hardy has done a lot for Minnesota’s manufacturing sector – and for the state economy writ large – since taking the reins at DEED in April 2016. In her previous role as deputy chief of staff to Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith, she presided over a broad portfolio: crisis management, agency oversight, community outreach, state government diversity initiatives, and efforts to “expand economic opportunity for Minnesotans of color,” according to her official bio. 

Before joining the administration, Hardy served two leadership stints in the private sector: policy director for Fresh Energy and manager of government relations for HealthPartners. She moved to HealthPartners from the City of St. Paul, where she worked as a city planner.

DEED Commissioner is a full-time job, but Hardy is no ordinary public servant. She’s involved with two private firms: Civic Eagle, which her bio describes as a “civic technology and data analytics company committed to developing tools that bridge civic engagement and social networking,” as co-founder and director of strategic growth; and PolicyGrounds Consulting, a policy shop, as founder.

Until recently, she served on three notable Twin Cities boards: the Wilder Foundation, YWCA of St. Paul, and the Minneapolis Parks Foundation.

And she’s the co-founder of MNPOWER Moves, “a group dedicated to building bridges that connect women of color for an intentional outcome through presence, purpose and power.”

That’s quite a resume. We’re grateful for your service, Commissioner Hardy – and we’re looking forward to seeing you on the 28th.