3M celebrated its 50th anniversary in style on Saturday morning as the public turned out in full force to tour the plant, learn about the products made and even pose with Jeff Gordon’s 3M-sponsored NASCAR as part of the Open House festivities.

Paul Aufenkamp, plant manager, hosted the public, along with current and retired employees and local government officials for a tour and a special treat. Aufenkamp had commemorative license plates made especially for the event that he gave to local government officials as a token of 3M’s gratitude for everything Brownwood, and the surrounding region, have done for the business over the years.

“(The turnout) obviously shows the commitment both 3M has to the community here as well as the commitment the community has to the plant,” Aufenkamp said. “The employees and the plant have been phenomenal over the course of that 50 years. That is probably the biggest reason why the plant is here and doing as well as it is, because of the quality of the workforce and the great, committed employees we have.

“We appreciate all the dignitaries coming out from the city, the Brownwood Economic Development Corporation and the general public that were here in the morning. That was great they came out. We are seeing now a great turnout from our employees and our retirees. We are in the middle of a great day here.”

Aufenkamp also received plenty of positive feedback from the community as tours concluded.

“It has been phenomenal,” he said. “My post has been here at the exit to thank people for coming. They are just fascinated by some of the technology they’ve seen here, the size of the place, of course, is impressive. They have really enjoyed seeing the tours and the NASCAR that is here. That was a nice add to the event as well.”

Brownwood City Manager Emily Crawford, along with city councilman Draco Miller and Guy Andrews, who serves as executive director of the Brownwood Economic Development Corporation, were presented with the specially fabricated license plates that depicted the ribbon-cutting ceremony for 3M that occurred 50 years ago.

“Every time I get the chance to go through the 3M plant, I am so proud to have this company in our community,” Crawford said. “The amount of technology and the amount of manufacturing that goes on right here in Brownwood is just astonishing to me. I am so proud we have 3M in our community – not just here as a major employer but here as a true member and part of our city.”

Crawford spoke of the existing relationship between Brownwood and 3M, which extends far beyond economics.

“We have enjoyed a fantastic relationship with 3M,” Crawford said. “To be able to have the plant manager on a first-name basis with city and elected officials, it shows that we truly have a relationship and not just a surface understanding.

“The economic impact of an employer like 3M is tremendous. It is not just the tax base, it is the employer, the number of people they employ, the number of households that are able to be in Brownwood because of this employer. Plus, the amount of dollars it brings to our community from all over the world. We are so proud they are here, and we want to keep it that way.”

Andrews was highly impressed with what he saw inside the plant, but also the economic effects 3M has on the region.

“I am just absolutely blown away at the magnitude of this plant, and how many people that affects throughout the world,” Andrews said. “Their products are shipped all over the world. I am just so proud that 3M has chosen Brownwood, and this is one of their best facilities in the world.

“They provide great jobs, and, hopefully, they will continue to expand. We are great community partners with them, and I look forward to continuing that relationship with them.”

Andrews was quick to praise Brownwood’s economic leaders from 50 years ago for having the vision of bringing 3M to Brownwood.

“I think it was great foresight of the founding fathers that went and recruited this in the first place,” Andrews said. “Then to be able to maintain that for all these years is just a testament to the type of people that Brownwood has with that kind of foresight. This community has more industrial jobs than much larger communities. It is amazing.”

Tour guide Brian Graham, who has worked at 3M for five years in Information Technology, was pleased to receive positive feedback from the public.

“They are just really impressed with the scale of which we do stuff,” Graham said. “We had quite a few folks go through the tour. 3M is just a good employer. They have taken very good care of my family and I.”

The highlight of the event for NASCAR fan Cyle Beevers was getting to pose with Jeff Gordon’s 3M car.

“I have been a NASCAR fan forever,” Beevers said. “To come here and get this close to your hero’s car – I’ve been watching him since I was a little kid. It is great of 3M to do this. I’ve been to some races, and, of course, when you go to races you don’t have the opportunity to get this close to the car. I am very grateful for 3M for putting this on here today.”

Brent Addleman is managing editor of the Brownwood Bulletin. He can be reached by calling 325-641-3110 or email baddleman@brownwoodbulletin.com. Twitter: @BWD_Editor