Curtis Mullen, the Area Business Manager for Kansas City and Northwest Missouri, is a native Canadian who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2008. His decades of experience have made him a strong representative for Missouri Enterprise, and he’s making a great name for himself and the company in his territory. Read on as Curtis offers some insights into Manufacturing in Missouri.
Q: Tell us about the potential for Missouri Enterprise to be of service to manufacturers in Kansas City and Northwest Missouri.
A: There’s a lot of potential. We already work with so many manufacturers in my territory, but there’s a lot of ground to cover. I’m out there every day meeting as many of our manufacturers as I can, but I want people to remember they can always contact me directly and I’ll be happy to come meet them and tell them about Missouri Enterprise. I love the fact that
I have two different types of areas in my territory…Jackson County is more urban, and then I have a lot of more rural areas outside that…it’s about 50/50 urban versus non-urban as far as manufacturers go…but both have a lot of great business people running manufacturing companies. I really like the mix.
Q: What are you hearing out in the field from manufacturers?
A: The obvious one is workforce and finding good quality employees. You hear it everywhere, urban and rural areas alike. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s even more of an issue in the rural areas. I recently spoke with an Economic Development Officer in a rural county who said something very interesting: “If we had the same labor participation rates today that existed prior to the Great Recession, essentially before ’08-’09, most of the open positions out there would be filled.”
I think that really says something about the current state of the workforce with the Gen Z young people coming of age, and Millennials starting to play a bigger part in the workforce. Manufacturers are genuinely struggling to find motivated people with the skill sets they need. It’s a very real problem.
Q: What else are you hearing out there that’s “new”?
A: Cybersecurity. I’m hearing about that much, much more recently. Finally, it feels like manufacturers are beginning to understand how important cybersecurity is, and the huge risks they face if they don’t pay attention to protecting their systems and their companies from cyberattacks.
They have sensitive employee data, proprietary information on their products and processes, and internet connected production equipment, all of which is vulnerable to attack, and it could cost them dearly if they’re compromised. The other thing that’s come up a few times lately is crisis management and emergency preparedness; they want to have good policies in place in case of natural disasters, or if security issues become a crisis, like the bombs at FedEx in Austin, Texas, or an active shooter in the factory, or any other unforeseen emergency issues.
I think there’s a reaction to all the recent news, and companies want to make sure they are protecting themselves and their people from any catastrophes like that. It’s a sign of the times.
Q: Word has it you’re a “master-networker” of sorts…
A: Well I don’t know about that, but I am very active in local Trade Organizations and community Chambers. Early in my career I worked at two Chambers of Commerce, so I have a natural understanding of their value and how they work. Missouri Enterprise is a great resource for manufacturers and being active in Chamber and Trade Organizations in communities throughout my territory is just one great way to reach out to people and make them aware of how we can assist them.
By working with Chambers of Commerce, Missouri Enterprise and the resources that we offer can be seen as adding value to belonging to the Chamber. It is a great win-win situation. At the end of the day, these organizations know we’re a great resource, and they can let their members know we’re there to provide assistance when they need it.