MORRIS --Exports, workforce creation and immigration reform were three topics on the table during a discussion between U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, staff from Superior Industries and local leaders in Morris on Tuesday afternoon.
Klobuchar was in Morris and took a tour of Superior Industries as part of a two-day “Exporting Minnesota” tour to discuss her effort to open up new export markets for Minnesota businesses.
Klobuchar is one of three senators who were recently appointed to President Barack Obama's Export Council, a group of business and labor leaders, congressional leaders, and administration representatives that will offer advice and expertise on how to promote exports.
About 20 percent of Superior's total sales are international, which includes buyers in Canada, Mexico, Australia, and Russia, said Superior CEO Micah Zeltwanger.
However, Zeltwanger said the company is focused on increasing sales within the state of Minnesota. Although Minnesota is the fourth largest mining state in the country, Superior's market share in northern Minnesota is small.
“We're focusing even on our own home state,” said Zeltwanger. “We also think we have innovations that would really help [local companies].”
Klobuchar also discussed workforce creation and strategies to get students interested in technical and manufacturing careers.
“You're doing the job creation and trying to have good trained workers to fill the jobs,” said Klobuchar. “A lot of this has to do with kids getting interested in this kind of work, seeing it as a career.”
Klobuchar praised the work that Case IH in Benson is doing with Benson High School to offer internships for both office and traditional blue collar jobs. Students finish school at 1:30 p.m., then spend the afternoon working at Case IH. And in some cases, students have the opportunity to continue working after graduation, said Klobuchar.
“It would be really great if we could formalize that at our school,” Zeltwanger said. Since there isn't a vocational or technical school in the area, Superior has opened a welding program to train personnel for needed jobs.
Another issue related to jobs that Klobuchar said she is working on is immigration reform. She would like to make it easier for international students to stay in the country while they are looking for jobs after graduation.
“We want to make it so legal immigration is encouraged... we're educating people and then they're going either back to their home country or places like Canada or Ireland that are making it easier,” said Klobuchar. “I am a little more optimistic than some people about this.”
During her tour, Klobuchar also visited facilities in Willmar, Benson, and Glenwood.