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Statistically, southern Minnesota has twice the manufacturers you would expect per capita. Why? I think it has something to do with farming. Farmers are necessity-driven innovators, and innovation sometimes leads to invention, and invention leads to production.


Whatever the reason, we have twice the competition as your average region — if you want to look at it that way. The interesting thing though is that we don’t look at it that way! Maybe it’s because we’re “Minnesota nice,” but at least in the steel fabrication industry, we don’t see our neighbors as competitors — we see them as collaborators. Some of our customers tell us it’s different in the metro areas. In fact, one of my structural engineering clients from Minneapolis told me he likes coming to southern Minnesota, where collaboration trumps competition. He often asks me to bid jobs I can’t do on my own because he knows I have friends.



Here’s the thing, steel manufacturing is too expensive for one company to afford all the toys. Oh sure, there are a few companies who’ve grown large enough to have it all, but once they’re that size, it seems like they lose their flexibility — their collaborative DNA.

Farmers today are in the same boat as manufacturers. Many aren’t large enough to afford all the expensive equipment, so they’re forced to either keep old, used equipment or collaborate with other farmers. “You buy the plow, I’ll buy the combine, and we’ll work together!”

Steel Manufacturing

The cool thing is that once we start working together, we share information and best practices, ramping up innovation. The world becomes a friendlier place when you know someone has your back. At ProAdvantage, we’ve invested in a 50’ powder coating oven. We have a neighbor who invested in a 10,000-watt laser table and a different neighbor with a gigantic lathe. Between the three of us, we’re tackling projects that gain national attention. Not only that, but I can also sit down with any of those guys and talk about challenges in our org chart or how to find efficiencies on the shop floor. Collaboration is a good thing!


I read once that the commercial construction industry is the only industry that has lost efficiency in the last fifty years. The article said it was due to the litigious nature of the industry, causing companies to hunker instead of huddle, protecting information rather than sharing. That’s not healthy!

ProAdvantage Powder Coating

So, if you’re looking for a more collaborative way of doing business, maybe you should consider bringing some work to southern Minnesota. We come from good farming stock. We know how to get things done. Can we tackle your project? Ya sure, you betcha!

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