Manufacturing Day Shines Light on Vital Part of U.S. Economy

Monday, September 28, marked the beginning of Manufacturing Week. Unfortunately, there are no festivities in Watertown this year for Manufacturing Day due to Covid-19. Last year, there were school visits, facility tours and the popular Manufacturing Olympics, where local companies enter teams of workers to compete in fun events.

Instead, companies are focusing on recognizing and celebrating the hard work and dedication of their employees and shining a spotlight on jobs.

Eric Henkensiefken

Eric Henkensiefken is the Operations Manager at Persona’s main Watertown location. He knows first-hand how rewarding a manufacturing career can be. Another key point, Persona is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2020. Over that time, it has grown to four locations and produces around 7,000 signs annually for some of the nation’s largest businesses.

“Virtually everything we touch in our lives comes from manufacturing,” Eric said. “There are so many different things that manufacturing involves. Important to realize, it’s not going away. It never will.”

Eric added, “Manufacturing isn’t the dirty, dingy 1920s anymore. We cleaner, we’re safer and we understand people more.”

Manufacturing in South Dakota

There are currently more than 425 manufacturing job openings in South Dakota.

In Codington County, nearly one-fourth of all workers are employed by privately owned manufacturing companies. To add, that number has grown by 7.3 percent over the past five years.

Lake Country manufacturing employees make up 27.1 percent of private payrolls. Lake County has seen its manufacturing jobs grow by 4.3 percent over the past five years. Notably, Lake Country is the home of Persona’s Madison facility. Persona is one of 27 manufacturing facilities in the Lake County. There are more than 1,000 employees there.

Today, more than 12 million people are employed by manufacturing companies in the United States. In fact, the number of jobs are expected to grow by 4.6 million by the end of the decade.

According to the Watertown Development Company, Manufacturing is so hot in South Dakota that more than 3,000 additional jobs will be created by 2020.

Persona is a major player in the sign industry. Truly, the sign industry was designated as “critical infrastructure” by the U.S. government because it enables so many “essential businesses” to operate. In fact, signs and graphics help communicate important information to the public during the pandemic.

Another benefit of pursuing a manufacturing career

Manufacturing careers have great pay and great benefits. Moreover, there are many other great benefits for manufacturing employees.

Eric said, “You can pretty much go anywhere you want and have a successful career in manufacturing. However, you can’t say that with some college degrees.”

“Of all the different industries you could be in,” he said, “in manufacturing, no matter how large or small the company is, we are always working in a team environment. Frequently, I work together with my engineering team, my planning team, my purchasing team, my marketing team.”

Manufacturing Day in the United States is every year on the first Friday in October. New Jersey proclaimed the first official Manufacturing Day in 2012. Fortunately, it has since grown to Manufacturing Week. In addition, Friday, Oct. 2, 2020, has also been designated as National Sign Manufacturers Day.