Walz tours Innovance in Albert Lea

Published 8:52 am Friday, January 20, 2012

First District U.S. House Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., and Mike Larson, Innovance CEO, talk with an employee during a tour of Innovance. -- Danielle Boss/Albert Lea Tribune

ALBERT LEA — First District Congressman Tim Walz, D-Minn., looked at Albert Lea’s Innovance Inc. Thursday as a successful business model for creating and maintaining jobs.

The parent company to four businesses — Lou-Rich, Almco, Panels Plus and Exact Manufacturing — Innovance now has 340 full-time employees and 30 temporary or part-timers. It has three facilities in Albert Lea and one in Hayward.

“It’s a powerful story,” Walz said of the company’s growth. “It’s positive to walk around here.”

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Meeting with company officials and a few other business leaders, Walz had a roundtable discussion about the company and then took a tour to see how the business operates.

Along the way, he stopped and talked with a few employees.

He said he plans to take what he’s learned about Innovance to his colleagues in Congress.

“The jobs are here,” he said. “There’s models that work, and for me it’s been a very positive experience.”

Looking to the new session, he thinks success stories like Innovance’s can start to rebuild Americans’ faith in the economy.

Walz also talked about how to help young adults get the training needed to succeed in a technical field such as welding.

“There’s still a great sense of pride with manufacturing,” he said.

After his visit at Innovance, Walz was slated to visit Albert Lea City Hall to meet with some of the city’s leaders.