Learning All About Manufacturing
By Dan Crisler Public Opinion Staff Writer
Through two tours on the Watertown Trolley Tuesday morning, Watertown citizens and officials took time to recognize the enormous impact the city’s many manufacturing businesses have had in contributing to the Watertown economy.
Coming near the beginning of Manufacturing Week, the approximately 90-minute trolley tours were a new addition to the week celebrated annually to give members of the public an extensive look at what more than two dozen manufacturing facilities in the city’s industrial parks contribute not only to Watertown, but to the nation and world.
With the tours organized by the Watertown Development Company, WDC Director of Business Development Michelle Kakacek said the trolley tours provided a twist to Manufacturing Week. Kakacek said the idea originated with the Manufacturing Week committee, a subcommittee to the Watertown Workforce Advisory Council.
“We wanted to do the trolley tours to raise awareness about the depth of manufacturing in Watertown and the importance of it in our economy,” Kakacek said.
With the manufacturing plants collectively employing over 3,000 people in Codington County, Watertown’s future is closely tied with the industry’s.
Fortunately, it appears to be a bright future. With several facilities having already opened this decade, 2019 may be the crowning achievement for Watertown’s manufacturing industry when the new 450,000-square foot Terex plant opens on the city’s east side near Interstate 29.
With Terex considered to be the city’s largest private employer at a current workforce of about 500 employees, the new Terex facility will centralize most of its operations currently scattered around the city. Once the facility opens late next year, it could add another 100 to 200 jobs.
Terex manufactures aerial devices, digger derricks and auger drills in Watertown.
Not too far southwest from the future Terex site sits a planned industrial park on the corner of the 20th Avenue South bypass and 29th Street Southeast. While the site is still a farm field for now, Kakacek said plans are moving forward and the WDC has received interest from companies to potentially locate their facilities there. Site work is scheduled to begin either late next spring or early next summer.
With the city’s manufacturing facilities already having open jobs and more jobs set to be added, Mayor Sarah Caron said the city is beginning to tackle the challenges of filling those jobs with skilled employees. The city and WDC have partnered to address those challenges over the next five years through the Grow Watertown campaign.
“We need more than just jobs. Jobs are important and we need to have them,” she said. “We have companies that have openings that would expand and increase their production if they had more workers.”
Caron said addressing the workforce shortage comes in many forms, including the need to establish more affordable housing and continue to offer more quality of life amenities.
“It’s a holistic attack on making our community stronger and looking at what we need to do to grow,” Caron said. “I’m very excited to be partnering with WDC to make that happen over the next five years.”
Many of the city’s manufactures are celebrating the week by giving members of the public behind the scenes tours and holding other events. Sparton, for example, will be hosting tours from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. this afternoon.
On Thursday, the Industrial Revolution 4.0 presentation will be held at Watertown Event Center at 4 p.m. Those interested in attending can register online at sdmanufacturing.com/events.aspx?ViewEvent=27396.
The week caps off Friday with National Manufacturing Day and National Sign Manufacturing Day.