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Energy in Communities: Red Wing, Minnesota

Energy Empowers Industry, Agriculture in Southeastern Minnesota

The morning sun rises over the bluffs that frame the town of Red Wing in southeastern Minnesota, hugging the Mississippi River’s southern bank about 55 miles from Minneapolis. In the nearby fields and pastures the soil is black and fertile, supporting a cornucopia of planted grains, as well as cattle ranches and chicken farms. Soon, the bounty raised here will make its way to American dinner tables all over the country.

A few miles north, an industrial corridor is home to Red Wing’s robust manufacturing sector. There, scientists and engineers at research and design centers uncover new technologies and applications, while production teams build products that will be packaged, sold and distributed around the world.

“Low-cost energy helps to keep our facilities operating so that families here can continue to earn a decent living."
– Mike Goggin, State Senator, MN

Together, industrial manufacturing and farming have driven the Red Wing economy for more than a century. Today, perhaps more than ever, both are thriving in this part of the country because of abundant U.S. natural gas and oil – energy that empowers all sectors, benefits consumers and helps protect the environment. Red Wing native and state Sen. Mike Goggin recognizes the vital role affordable energy plays across the regional economy.

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“Manufacturing is energy-intensive, and it’s our bread and butter,” Goggin says. “Low-cost energy helps to keep our facilities operating so that families here can continue to earn a decent living and enjoy all the things that make Red Wing so special.”

Statewide, the natural gas and oil industry supported more than 117,000 jobs, or more than 3% of Minnesota’s total employment in 2015. The industry provided more than $7 billion in wages and contributed more than $14 billion to the state economy – including $4.5 billion to the second congressional district where Red Wing is located.

But industry’s impact is more than it and its suppliers. It’s energy that fuels and produces across all sectors – manufacturing, construction, logistics, banking and more. Energy is foundational to growth and the opportunity to prosper. They’re seeing it in Red Wing and the surrounding area.

The home of headquarters for global players including Red Wing Shoe Company, 3M, Riedell and BIC Graphic – the parent company of a half-dozen other well-known brands – the town of 16,000 has an oversized impact on the world. Just up the road, Marathon Petroleum’s St. Paul Park refinery produces essential fuels for the nation’s transportation sector.

Overall, things are good here. The area’s unemployment rate of 3.1% (as of September) is about a point lower than the national rate. There’s growth, and energy is playing its part. Just ask Tito Warren, a top executive at Red Wing Shoe Company.

“From the natural gas used to power Red Wing manufacturing facilities and retail stores to the fuel we rely on to transport products, and the hard workers who rely on our products, energy is tied to everything we do,” says Warren, vice president of global sales.

Red Wing is one of the world’s oldest work boot makers. Workers in farming, construction, manufacturing, natural gas and oil, and a number of skilled trades swear by Red Wing footwear. The company’s first flagship retail location still sits along Red Wing’s Main Street. A 16-foot-tall, Size 638 ½ boot was parked there to mark the company’s centennial in 2005.

Besides boots, the company makes protective workwear, gloves, safety glasses and more. These items are particularly important to natural gas and oil industry workers, from the Permian Basin of West Texas to Southeast Asia. Other heavy industrial trades rely on Red Wing products, too. Warren calls the boots a “symbol of American manufacturing everywhere.”

Others point to energy’s positive role as well. David Ybarra, president of the 9,000-member Minnesota Pipe Trades Association, says the U.S. energy revolution helps support much-needed job growth at a critical time.

Bill Hanisch, Hanisch Bakery & Coffee, Red Wing, Minnesota

Bill Hanisch, Hanisch Bakery & Coffee – Red Wing, Minnesota

“The commercial and residential segments of the pipefitting industry were hit hard during the recession and we didn’t have a lot of other options,” Ybarra says. “The shale boom sustained us, drew more people to pipefitting and led to jobs at nearby refineries and natural gas plants that are just as important to trade workers today.”

These are great times for the locally owned bakery and coffee shop. But Hanisch remembers 2007, when things weren’t so great. As natural gas and oil prices were at some of their highest levels, Hansich’s operating costs skyrocketed.

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