Reporting Mike Binkley
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (WCCO) – Many consumers seek out American-made products, and now there’s an easy way to take it a step further and find goods and supplies produced by Minnesotans.
It’s a new Made In Minnesota online directory from the Department of Employment and Economic Development.
Among those promoting it is a Minneapolis company that does extensive work with Sesame Street Live.
As Bert, Ernie and the other characters travel the world, nearly every costume, every set and every prop will have come from the VEE Corporation in Minneapolis.
It not only produces Elmo and friends, it does sets and exhibits for major events. Workers are currently designing and building interactive fan experiences for the NBA Jam Fest, for example.
Mascots for most of Minnesota’s sports teams, including Crunch of the Timberwolves, Nordy of the Wild and TC Bear of the Twins come from the same creative minds and hands.
Vince Egan is the CEO of the VEE Corporation, which does 95 percent of its business in the state.
“The talent here is unbelievable,” he said.
The company also buys some of the styrofoam, lumber and other materials it uses from Minnesota companies, a move that helps control costs.
“We don’t have to ship and we don’t have to air freight if we’re short something,” Egan said.
The commissioner of the Department of Employment and Economic Development, Katie Clark Sieben, was surprised by some of the products listed in the new directory.
“I did not know that Elmo was manufactured in Minnesota,” she said.
That’s part of the reason for the new service. Many business leaders may not be aware of all the work that’s done within the state’s borders.
“It lists the company information,” Sieben said. “It lists the products they manufacture, the name of the company, the county.”
By putting the information online, the state hopes to keep valuable jobs from leaving the state.
“We think by creating this directory, by creating connections among companies across the state, that that will help these companies to grow here in Minnesota,” Sieben said.
So far, nearly 600 Minnesota manufacturers have joined the free online directory, and others are urged to sign up.