Job Growth the Unanswered Question in Columbia 3M Expansion

Photo courtesy of 3M

COLUMBIA — After years of declining local staff, 3M is adding jobs in Columbia.

According to Regional Economic Development, Inc. documents, the 3M manufacturing plant (5400 Paris Rd.) has lost jobs since 2004. In 2004, the plant employed 639 people. Currently the plant employs 216 people.

REDI Vice President Bernie Andrews said previously the Columbia plant manufactured only a handful of items, mostly electronic connectors. Falling profit margins pushed electronic connector operations overseas, Andrews said.

Andrews couldn’t say what products the 3M plant will produce, but a recent 3M press release said the company will develop solar film.

REDI President Mike Brooks said the organization has worked with 3M on expansion for a long time, with talks beginning about the same time as those with IBM on a separate expansion. IBM opened a facility in Columbia in May 2011. The company announced it was moving to Columbia in 2010.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article 3M said it was moving to a hub system where it would manufacture more products all in one location.

For example, Littman stethocscopes used to be made in several different locations, but now are made for 3M exclusively in Columbia.

Brooks said he wasn’t sure how many jobs the new plant would bring, but he was excited to curb the loss of manufacturing jobs in the area. Representatives from 3M did not immediately respond to phone calls for comment.

“We need a diversified economy,” he said. “We have citizens in our community who will benefit from manufacturing jobs.”

Over the last couple of years Columbia has added a wide variety of jobs, but manufacturing jobs are often the best work for people without college degrees.

“Manufacturing jobs are typically well paid and typically have benefits,” he said.


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