The division of urban versus rural land was born while the country was busy industrializing in the 1900s. Thousands of people left farmland for the surplus of job opportunities in burgeoning cities like Boston, Chicago, New York, and Detroit. Those who stayed behind maintained the country’s agricultural needs, which typically involved a more isolated, slower pace of life than their urban counterparts. These significantly smaller populations became rural towns and were left unbothered.
Eventually, the lower labor wages, property taxes, and land prices offered in the countryside grew too attractive to resist. Companies either began outsourcing factories to other countries or moved to rural areas. 3M and Kohler discovered Brownwood and each built manufacturing plants here roughly 50 years ago.
Though best known for the Post-It Note, 3M Company has invented a variety of adhesive tape, audio-visual equipment, medical and dental products, and safety tools. Their Brownwood location specializes in the production of reflective sheeting and cloth for highway traffic signage, license plates, and safety clothing. Here, they also make security laminates and world-class inks.
2015 marked 3M’s 50th anniversary in Brownwood, Texas. To celebrate, 3M threw quite the party! More than 1,200 people attended for community tours of the plant, pictures with 3M’s sponsored NASCAR vehicle and driver Jeff Gordon, family fun activities like face painting, and a delicious catered lunch. Opening in 1965 makes today their 57th year of operation. Executives look forward to many more decades of success in Brownwood.
Having undergone three expansions, the current facility spans 916,000 square feet, covering 163 acres, and employs more than 600 people. It is located less than ten minutes from downtown, out by the Brownwood Country Club and Bert V Massey II Sports Complex. According to 3M officials, the plant houses over 20,000 Stock Keeping Units (SKUs are used to identify individual products that are for sale), divided into eight manufacturing divisions.
The company celebrates not only being a success in the industry but is also recognized by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for its superior environmental management efforts. 3M’s website states, “We take pride in the wide variety of 3M technologies used to manufacture a complex product offering. Mechanical, industrial, and chemical engineers are employed throughout the plant to manage these technologies, and new product and process introductions are a routine part of how we do business. Lean Six Sigma methodologies are utilized to generate improvements, and everyone in the organization plays a significant role in our continual improvement.”
Altruistically, 3M has given back to the Brownwood community by donating thousands of dollars to various charities. Most recently in 2020, Brown County United Way received an $11,500 grant to help with Covid-19-related expenses. In 2019, 3M partnered with Texas State Technical College to provide job training using a $78,771 Skills Development Fund grant from Texas Workforce Commission. Students from Howard Payne University worked with the company in 2016 to produce a Contractor Safety Awareness Video that is still used today as part of 3M’s orientation process for new contractors. Additionally, to honor service to the Brownwood community, 3M donates $250 to each non-profit organization for which a 3M employee volunteers 25 or more hours per year.
Two years ago, 3M partnered with Brownwood ISD and Texas State Technical College to launch the Manufacturing and Academic Partnerships (MAP) Program. MAP offers manufacturing training to high school students in order to form pathways and interest in a prospective career. MecLab Trainers lay the foundation for a variety of technical skills needed in the industry. Brownwood is one of only thirteen sites in the nation to participate in this program and is the only one of its kind in Texas.
What a wonderful symbiotic partnership we have with 3M Company. Brownwood residents are offered a secure, lucrative place to work with proactive management and advancement opportunities. Meanwhile, 3M profits from lower land prices. The corporation values “a talented group of people and a wonderful town here in Brownwood.”
Just down the street from 3M is another manufacturing plant belonging to Kohler. Best known for plumbing products, the company also manufactures furniture, cabinetry, tile, engines, and generators.
Equally as generous as 3M, Kohler also invests in the Brownwood community. Donations include $5,000 to the Lyric Theatre, $2,000 to Keep Brownwood Beautiful, 20 Chromebooks to the Boys and Girls Club, $1,000 to Brown County Youth Fair Association, $1,000 to Brown County Rodeo Association, $1,000 to Toys for Kids Toy Drive, scholarships to Brownwood High School graduates, and the list continues.
With nearly 1,000 employees, Kohler is by far the largest employer in Brownwood, which is no surprise as the Brownwood plant is the largest of the three Kohler potteries in the United States. The main plant spans 1.1 million square feet over 186 acres while the tank plant is 90,000 square feet on 40 acres. Though much bigger, Kohler is not quite as old as 3M’s factory. The main Kohler plant was originally built in 1976, making today its 46th year in operation.
Both 3M and Kohler are known as great places to work in Brownwood. Together they’ve created over 3,000 manufacturing jobs in Brown County. Employees make nearly $5,000 in average monthly earnings, and programs targeting young students offer training and pathways into the workforce. Industry plays a huge role in our town. We hope to continue these partnerships for many more decades to come!