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FEATURE STORY: Road to the Olympics

The ‘Manufacturing Olympics’—that is

Monday, October 3, 2016

The 4th annual South Dakota Manufacturing Week is underway and communities and companies across the state have been busy planning events to show appreciation for the industry. From career fairs to executive socials to floats in homecoming parades, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) partners commit every year to help grow community engagement.

One event that’s generated some unique interest in several communities is the “Manufacturing Olympics,” an event that was first dreamed up by Carmen Schramm, executive director of the Yankton Chamber of Commerce.


“I think people thought I was crazy at first,” Schramm said. “But each year the Olympics have gained a little more momentum, and it continues to grow. As an event coordinator that’s all you want to see happen, is to see your event grow. I’d love to see more communities get involved every year so we can challenge each other and really turn it into a statewide manufacturing event.”

The Manufacturing Olympics will enter its third year in Yankton. Prior to the 2015 Manufacturing Week, Schramm sent out a state-wide challenge, and it prompted another South Dakota community to take notice. Newly appointed workforce development coordinator in Huron, Brooke Sydow, accepted Schramm’s challenge to participate, and created the ‘Huron Made’ Manufacturing Olympics.

“Our teams were a little hesitant to jump in, and like Carmen, I think people thought I was crazy. However, as a result of the Olympics, several teams reported the event quickly became a highlight for them,” said Sydow. “We wanted to make the events fun and relaxed, and have a friendly competition among manufacturers. Our eight teams of almost 40 competitors came from different manufacturing companies. We hope to increase the number of participants this year. Like Carmen said, if we can grow our events and number of participants a little bit each year, then we will claim success! It’s fun to get the manufacturers out of their place of work to build camaraderie, and share with them our appreciation for everything they do for our local, state, and global economy.”

Sydow says planning is underway for the 2nd annual ‘Huron Made’ Manufacturing Olympics, and when asked what events could be expected for this year, she said, “We will be having some similar activities to last year, but we are also introducing some new twists and turns, just to keep our competitors on their toes. We want our teams to come prepared to have fun, be physically and mentally challenged, take part in team-building activities, and have the chance to network with their counterparts in our community,” Sydow said.

The manufacturing Olympics are also about creating awareness and shedding light on all the incredible manufacturing-related things happening right here in South Dakota. Sydow and Schramm say some of the best things we can do to generate interest are highlighting the many opportunities in the industry, talking to students about scholarships and hands-on training, and showcasing these types of events. It helps make it real, instead of a short-lived campaign, they both said.huron-mfg-week.JPG

“There are some remarkable opportunities in the manufacturing industry; we need to get our community and students thinking actively about it,” Sydow said.

Schramm agrees, saying that as manufacturing evolves, the career opportunities also continue to grow—so does the demand.

“Our local manufacturers struggle to fill open positions, but I don’t think it’s specific to just Yankton. There’s a demand industry-wide,” Schramm said. “You can’t search available jobs and not see the need for welders, machinists, operators and so many other hard-skill jobs—the need is very real.”

For now, Huron, Yankton and Watertown are the three communities that will host local Manufacturing Olympics. But both Schramm and Sydow agree that a statewide Manufacturing Olympics showdown has to happen someday. Watertown's olympics are scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 6, and both Huron’s and Yankton’s local Olympics will take place on Friday, Oct.7.

As South Dakota Manufacturing week continues, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development will issue daily feature stories, spotlighting companies, individuals and organizations that have made the commitment to grow South Dakota’s manufacturing industry.

SD Manufacturing week is in its fourth year, and across the state, communities are coming together to celebrate and thank our manufactures. Please visit for a list of events. Connect with us on social media, too. Find us on Facebook at and on Twitter, @SDGOED. Follow along with us other communities, by using #SDMfgWeek.


Media Contact

Members of the media requesting more information should contact Natalie Likness at or (605) 773-3301.