JAMESTOWN — Proclamations from state and local elected officials kicked off regional Manufacturing Month activities Friday during a ceremony at SUNY JCC’s Manufacturing Technology Institute.
Manufacturing Month, sponsored by JCC, the Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier, and Dream It Do It Western New York, is celebrated throughout the nation during October.
Proclamations were read by City of Jamestown mayor Eddie Sundquist, State Sen. George Borrello, Chautauqua County Executive PJ Wendel, Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, and Jacqueline Phelps, representing U.S. Rep. Tom Reed.
Also providing remarks were JCC president Daniel DeMarte, MAST board of directors and president Dale Gier, MAST executive director Todd Tranum, Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Dan Heitzenrater, and WNY P-TECH STEM College & Career Academy principal Bill Smock.
Event speakers focused their comments on the vital role manufacturing plays in the regional economy — and the great need to train employees to replace hundreds of veteran manufacturing workers who are retiring.
“I believe that manufacturing is the heartbeat of our region,” Smock said. “It’s not only economic development, it’s an image, it’s who we are.”
Tranum said manufacturing in Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties account for 15% of the total workforce (18,000 employees), which is significantly higher than the national average of 8%. Additionally, $7.5 billion in goods from the region are exported around the world each year.
Sundquist, Goodell, and Wendell shared examples of what regional manufacturers produce — everything from parts for vehicles, airplanes, and federal defense equipment, to dog food and ice cream.
“We’re very excited to see that the city of Jamestown is the epicenter of all of the parts that continue to keep us moving in America,” Sundquist said.
Gier, who is also president of Ring Precision Components, said his company — like many others — continues to face the challenge of finding skilled employees that help area manufacturers and the local economy thrive.
“We need high quality workers who are looking forward to a high quality career,” Goodell said. “That’s what the Manufacturing Institute is all about — looking for high quality students who are looking for a high quality career that is rewarding, important and valuable, not only to our community but our country and the world.”
Hope Smith is one of those students. She started in the P-TECH program as a ninth grader and is on schedule to earn certification from JCC’s MTI in May. P-TECH is a 6-year program that sets high school students on paths to earn college degrees in manufacturing, engineering, and technology programs.
Speaking at the event, Smith said she made a connection with Jamestown’s Bush Industries when area manufacturing representatives visited JCC to share information about their companies. That led to a summer internship and later a position as an engineering technician.
Smith has been employed by Bush Industries for three months. She encouraged fellow students to look into pursuing a career in manufacturing.
“We’re all working together to solve the workforce challenge,” Borrello said. “If we can do that here, it will strengthen us. We talk about keeping our children here. Getting them involved with manufacturing is the key to growing our families and keeping our children here in Western New York.”
DeMarte said he looks forward to October 1, Manufacturing Day, every year. His father was a machinist for 35 years. He brought home projects he worked on, as well as stories about his colleagues and the machines he ran everyday.
DeMarte announced goals of bringing JCC, MAST, Dream It Do It WNY, and area manufacturers together for greater collaboration. He said the college has received $2.5 million in grant funding to use on MTI programming, equipment, and personnel.
Holger Ekanger, JCC’s vice president for Workforce Development, said the college’s partnership with MAST benefits the community.
“Engaging with MAST better positions us to develop meaningful educational programs that train employees and provide skills that our local manufacturers need,” Ekanger said. “The relationship also helps us better connect students and recent graduates to internships and job opportunities in manufacturing.”
MAST represents more than 100 manufacturers across Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties.
“If we are to continue to retain and grow this important sector of the economy we must develop an abundant and skilled workforce,” Gier said. “As we come together today, it is important to recognize that it will take a collective collaborative effort of the manufacturing sector, our school districts, post-secondary educators such as JCC, programming such as P-TECH, our elected leaders and economic development professionals working together to build the workforce we need now and well into the future.”