(Waseca County News)
By DREW AMO
WASECA — Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar braved the snowy weather Monday to make a stop in Waseca to tour the Itron facility as part of her “Innovation Tour.”
Itron General Manager of Operations Bob Whitney gave a brief presentation to the Senator on the history of the facility and how it has grown over the years, including the hiring of 126 additional production line employees and 26 indirect employees in 2010.
One of the goals the Waseca facility is aiming for this year is to increase its water and gas products exports to Canada. Last year, the Waseca facility exported one percent of its products. Now it’s around 9.5 percent with the year end goal of hitting 10 percent.
Klobuchar told the employees that the continued strength and competitiveness of Itron had a lot to do with the decisions of management as well as “all of you and the hard work you put in” every day.
She added that it’s great to see all the things the company is doing during these times of economic hardships.
After the presentation, Klobuchar spoke to the employees of Itron.
She told the group that her major focus is on jobs and the economy. She credits Minnesota’s unemployment rate being below the national average to the hard working and educated workforce, along with the innovative companies that are based in the state.
She added that it’s up to her and her colleagues at the federal level to put forth policies that encourage job creation at home.
That includes education, by encouraging student interest in math, science and engineering as well as removing barriers for people trying to get two-year technical degrees.
Cutting red tape for products made in America, such as medical devices, is another thing she supports to help keep the country competitive. Klobuchar explained that new medical devices take such a long time to get approval in the country, that many investors are instead going to Europe.
Efforts to compete with other nations, as well as the challenges when it comes to the federal budget and economy, will require cooperation between both parties, according to Klobuchar.
After speaking with the employees, Whitney gave Klobuchar a tour of the facility and the work that goes into the gas and water chips they produce.