2017-10-01 / Insight

Manufacturing expert:

Companies need to open doors to young people
810-452-2609 •

Chuck Hadden is president and CEO of the Michigan Manufacturers Association. Chuck Hadden is president and CEO of the Michigan Manufacturers Association. LAPEER COUNTY

— Companies across the U.S. and Michigan are set to mark this year’s Manufacturing

Day on Friday by welcoming younger people into their buildings.

Though it was difficult to find any Lapeer County-based companies taking part in the event, that doesn’t mean the industry — and finding workers for projected growth in the sector locally — isn’t important to the region.

As The County Press has reported, the number of jobs in Lapeer County is up by about 3,000 since the low point of the recession in 2009, led by about 1,500 that came to the area through growth in manufacturing. Patricia Lucas, executive director, Lapeer Development Corp. (LDC), has said she sees continued growth for the area in the manufacturing sector.

According to figures on the LDC website, the number of jobs in the “production, transportation, materials moving” classification (there isn’t one specific to manufacturing) is projected to increase about 20 percent in the next 10 years — outpacing projected growth of about 12 percent for the same classification across the entire U.S.

Companies like Mayfield Township-based Kamax L.P., Urgent Design & Manufacturing of Lapeer, Imlay City’s Springfield Industries LLC, and D.T. Fowler in Elba Township are among those that have expanded operations locally, with plans to keep growing.

Chuck Hadden, president and CEO, Michigan Manufacturers Association, talked with The County Press about the importance of manufacturing to the local economy, where the industry is headed, and its biggest challenge.

“There’s not a small town around anywhere that survives without a manufacturing community in the area,” Hadden said. “They create the jobs. There are only a number of ways that you can create jobs — you can grow something, you can mine something, or you can make something and that’s what manufacturers do. That’s how they add to the economy.”

Headed into the fourth quarter (of the calendar year), Hadden said projections indicate manufacturing may be slowing but is quick to note that the industry had seen “tremendous growth” in the last couple of years.

“Slow but steady is what we’re hoping for,” he said.

In fact, he notes the state has led the nation in manufacturing job growth with 167,000 new manufacturing jobs since the recession.

The Michigan Dept. of Technology, Management, and Budget (DTMB) projects the number of manufacturing jobs in Michigan is expected to increase from 566,520 in 2014 to 601,610 in 2024, an increase of 6.2 percent.

Manufacturing growth is predicted to be driven largely by automobile and automobile parts producers. Durable Goods Manufacturing is forecast to outpace that at 8.2 percent growth for the overall period. Transportation equipment manufacturing is predicted to add over 20,000 jobs for a roughly 13 percent increase during the period.

A DTMB report specific to the region that includes Lapeer County projects the need for industrial machinery mechanics making $17-$32 an hour will increase about 23 percent.

The need for machinists making $16-$20 an hour will increase about 9 percent.

Hadden further noted that there is strong demand especially for tooling jobs.

However, it won’t necessarily be easy to find workers for all of those openings.

“Over the next decade, nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will likely be needed (in the U.S.), and only 2 million of them are expected to be filled,” Hadden told The County Press. “We have a big gap that we’re staring at.”

Hadden said it’s hard to place blame on any one factor, though points out that the notion that everyone has to attend a four-year college to land a good job has contributed.

“These are great jobs that people need to be thinking about,” Hadden said. “And you’re going to be in demand.”

Local anecdotal evidence backs Hadden’s claims about the struggle to find workers.

Nearly 200 people from a seven county area attended the I-69 Thumb Region 6th Annual Regional Summit held last week at the Lapeer Country Club. Representatives of businesses, public utilities, higher education, local government, chambers of commerce, and local economic development offices met to share progress as well as identify shortfalls that exist to optimize prosperity in the counties of Lapeer, Genesee, Tuscola, Sanilac, Huron, St. Clair and Shiawassee.

In the six years the I-69 Corridor coalition has been in existence more than 3,500 jobs have been created in the seven-county consortium.

More than a half-dozen business owners The County Press spoke to during the summit meeting, however, said they can’t find enough people to fill the job openings they have owed to strong sales and orders for their products. Many of the jobs mentioned were high-paying engineering and skilled trades positions necessary to keep their shops and manufacturing facilities running at full capacity.

And that’s where Manufacturing Day comes in.

Since 2012, Manufacturing Day has seen more than a 1,000-percent increase in the number of events from 240 in 2012 to 2,807 in 2016. All 50 Unites States have consistently participated in Manufacturing Day, with Michigan as one of the highest. In 2016 alone, manufacturing impacted 595,341 participants, including 267,607 students.

In short, companies host youngsters at their facilities to show them what’s going on behind the walls of businesses in or around their respective communities.

It’s important to expose youngsters to the manufacturing industry, Hadden said, especially to dispel preconceived notions that manufacturing jobs are all done in places that are “dark, dangerous, and dirty.”

“We have to show people what’s inside these facilities, what these great jobs are, and how they can be involved in them,” Hadden said.

Hadden noted that Manufacturing Day events don’t necessarily have to take place on Oct. 6 and that, in fact, he’ll be attending events throughout the month of October.

“It can happen at any time,” Hadden said. “I would encourage people to open their doors, show people what they have and what they’re doing — maybe grill some hotdogs and have some neighbors over because all they know is there’s this big building and something’s going on inside it.”

GST Michigan Works!, a Flintbased agency whose service area includes Lapeer County, helps coordinate Manufacturing Day events — even if they don’t take place on Oct. 6 — for companies in its service area.

More information can be obtained online at https://gstmiworks.org/manufacturing%20day/

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