Winona has a rich history of manufacturing activity. Not long after it was founded in the mid 1850s, core industries began to develop. One of the earliest and most important at the time was the lumbering industry. Sawmills at one time lined the riverfront. The river was used to raft logs downstream to Winona to be processed into lumber. Foundries also were and still are a major industry.
Some of our industries have come and gone, such as the manufacturing of house boats, motor homes and prefab houses, wagon and buggy building, blacksmith shops, meat packing, farm machinery, etc. The entrepreneurial spirit developed early in Winona's history and has continued through today. Today, we see much effort to promote entrepreneurialism by the education community and economic development groups.
Our area is often envied by neighboring regions because of our vast economic diversity. Because of this diversity, we are somewhat immune to sharp rises and falls of the national economy. We are not at the mercy of one or two large companies. Currently, we have manufacturing companies in electronics, composites, recreational items like canoes, foundries, chain, fasteners, metal fabrication, screen printing, other printed materials, fertilizers, lifting products, medical devices, advertising and promotional products, metal bending tools, garbage cans, clothing, automotive electronics, parts and automotive rebuilding equipment, die casting, lighting fixtures, heavy road equipment, violin bows, plasticized picnic tables, vanilla extract and home remedy products, stained glass windows, bulk product coverings, kitchen cabinets, furniture and the list goes on.
On a summer day, a drive through the back alleys will find people working in their garages and shops developing some of their ideas. This is usually where it starts and has for decades. Fortunately, many of these efforts have evolved into full-blown manufacturing companies.
Rich Mikrut is vp of warehousing and distribution for Lawrence Transportation Company