Russ Bryan, plant manager of the 3M plant in Brownwood since 2017, addressed a rumor he said appears to be in the community.

Speaking alongside Brownwood Mayor Stephen Haynes at the mayor’s State of the City address Friday, Bryan said he wanted to “squash” a rumor that the plant is closing.

The plant is actually in an expansion mode and will be bringing in 17 new technical personnel, and is investing in new technology, Bryan said.

“So our sign out front was kind of peeling off,” Bryan said. “So we took it down. There’s a group that we have to go through in corporate and redo the sign according to their specifications, so it’s been awhile.”

The “closing” rumor has also been fueled by the sight of “a hole in the wall” where, supposedly, 3M is taking out its equipment, Bryan said. “That’s actually a new investment going in. So I want to get that clear for everybody,” he said.

Bryan said he started his career in 1995 and was in Brownwood before going to work in other 3M facilities, and returned after a 13-year absence.

“I’ve been here 20 months,” Bryan said. “Lot of positive things happening at the plant. We had significant investment — a couple of large ones, upwards of $30 million, going into the plant.”

Haynes asked Bryan if last year’s tax reforms had made a difference for the plant.

“Sure,” Bryan replied. “I look at my capital budget for this year. It’s about $3 million more than what we’ve gotten. I think it’s made it easier to repatriate money from outside the U.S.

“We pay less taxes on that, bringing it back into the U.S. economy. I think that has been an investment that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise, so that’s been definitely a positive for us.”

Haynes asked Bryan what he’s seen different in Brownwood since his return after the 13-year absence. “I’d say what I see is some more retail, restaurants, more opportunity to go out and entertain yourself,” Bryan said.

Haynes also asked Bryan if that change has impacted industry. “It definitely helps,” Bryan said. “We employ a lot of technical folks (who) have expendable income. They’re looking to do things.

“Being a young single engineer when I started, I left town a lot. So the more we can keep that group here and engage them in the community, it’s a lot better for them, just from a quality of life standpoint.”

Bryan said 3M has recently started a program to “certify kids coming out of high school and get them ready and used to working around equipment. We’re seeing that change in the workforce.

“Kids used to, a lot of times, grow up on a farm or a ranch. They were around equipment. They understood it. No so much today.”

3M is partnering with Texas State Technical College and some school districts, Bryan said. “The 3M Foundation gave the green light, so we’ll be the first investment outside the midwest here in Brown County,” he said.

Noting that 3M appears to be “expanding, growing, thriving,” Haynes asked Bryan how the plant has been successful and what the city can do to help ensure success.

“First and foremost, the workforce,” Bryan said. “Great workforce here. People really care, for the most part, and along with that, we’re a very large plant. With the base that we have established, they’re going to continue to invest in us. We just have to deliver on those.

“I think the continued investment in the community, making it a better place to live, that certainly is going to make our technical folks want to come and stay.”