It’s no secret that manufacturing plays a key role in driving economic growth, or that transportation is essential for the success of any manufacturing operation.
While the relationships among manufacturing, transportation, and economic growth have been studied on a large scale, there is often little dialogue between transportation organizations and the manufacturers themselves.
A recently completed pilot study conducted jointly by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and University of Minnesota Extension aims to address this communication gap.
The pilot project focused on 12 counties in southwest Minnesota. The research team began by identifying key industry clusters within the region; industry clusters are driving economic forces that sell outside the local, state, and national market—bringing money into the region and creating jobs in other economically dependent industries such as retail and food service.
Ultimately, more than 172 regional businesses were contacted for participation in this project, and 75 in-person interviews were completed with manufacturers, shippers, and carriers. During the interviews, participants were encouraged to focus their comments on high-value, low-cost improvements that MnDOT can address in the short term without over-promising projects that currently cannot be funded.
Participants identified the need for smooth pavements and wide shoulders, the value of advance warning lights at intersections with traffic signals, the importance of highway safety, and the challenges of maneuvering oversized vehicles through roundabouts, among others.
The research team is compiling the pilot study’s findings into a final report. In the meantime, MnDOT is working to address a number of the challenges and suggestions uncovered through the pilot program.
Read the full article in the December issue of Catalyst.