VADNAIS HEIGHTS, MN-Small businesses and the local manufacturing sector are vital elements to keeping local economies strong, and last week, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty reinforced that message during his keynote address to a crowd of nearly 170 people attending Minni Tek, a half-day, invitation-only event organized by VistaTek, maker of prototypes and low-volume production parts. The educational event introduced attendees to the new methods and technologies used to manufacture low-volume production parts, including additive fabrication, milling and aluminum tooling.

During his speech, Gov. Pawlenty noted that the public perception of manufacturing is 20 to 30 years out of date, and praised Minnesota manufacturers for adopting niche and value-added systems to counteract decline in the sector. He also commented on the prevalence of Minnesota growth due largely in part to in-state entrepreneurs who build their businesses locally.

Dan Mishek, co-owner of VistaTek, and his grandfather, Ken Wilson, founder of Wilson Tool, introduced the governor together. The event was held at North Oaks Golf Club in North Oaks, MN. Attendees included engineers and purchasers from companies including Medtronic, Lockheed Martin, St. Jude, Toro, 3M and Boston Scientific.

The session concluded with a panel discussion on the trends in low-volume production and the implications these trends have on the Minnesota economy.

Other participating experts at the event included:

  • Dr. Art Erdman, University of Minnesota, event moderator
  • Gloria McDonnell, HLB Tautges Redpath, Ltd., presenting on manufacturing and regulations
  • Jeff Hanson, RedEye, presenting on direct digital manufacturing
  • Dave Reasor, Product Development Solutions Inc., presenting on CNC machining
  • Dan Mishek, VistaTek, presenting on rapid tooling and injection molding
  • Expert panelists David Sparks, Andersen Corp.; Michael Thorsfeldt, Clearfield; Paul Hennen, Donaldson; Bill Buenz, Graco; and Kimberly Stenerson, Medtronic

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