"Finding Qualified Workforce a Top Challenge for Region's Manufacturers", was the headline the Pioneer chose for its article that ran on Wednesday, May 22, following Enterprise Minnesota's "The State of Manufacturing" panel discussion.

As a participating panelist I fear that Pioneer readers may have been left with the wrong impression as it relates to the state of manufacturing in Bemidji. At the panel discussion, I reiterated quite strongly that our company, LaValley Industries, has not witnessed the shortage of qualified workforce that Enterprise Minnesota's survey has found in other parts of our region.

Further, my fellow panelists agreed that this specific challenge of "worker shortage" is just not accurate for Bemidji, and we all further agreed upon our continued commitment to bringing more manufacturing opportunities to Bemidji. I did attempt to address my concerns regarding this article with the reporter who wrote the story without success and I therefore feel obligated to write this letter, as I believe to not clarify what was said by the panelists would be doing the Bemidji community an injustice.

At the panel I also explained my belief that our community continues to have an abundance of hard working, blue collar workers who can get the job done if given the opportunity. My fellow panelist, Eric Hokuf, agreed with my comments and explained that he has been expressing the same opinion and that the proof lies in how many manufacturing workers our community exports to surrounding communities like Thief River Falls, Minneapolis and other states like North Dakota.

As we have grown LaValley Industries, my business partner Jorge Prince and I have remained committed to growing the number of manufacturers in our community because we believe that manufacturing careers pay the higher wages needed by our citizens to provide a better life for their families. Despite the headline, our community is ripe for growth in manufacturing and the future is bright.

Jason LaValley