Manufacturing is very much alive in the United States, New York and right here in Chautauqua County. In addition, what we once thought impossible is happening - manufacturers are re-shoring to the United States. Decreasing domestic energy costs, rising wages in China and increased shipping costs have contributed to this trend. Most importantly the level of skill and engineering know-how in the United States is driving this trend. Estimates are that 20 to 25 percent of production that has been off-shored will return to the United States in the coming years. However, if the community is to nurture these positive trends, it must make investments and coordinate resources to meet the workforce needs of local manufacturers.
Here is a snapshot of why investing in the manufacturing workforce is so important here in Chautauqua County. Sales of goods manufactured in Chautauqua County total approximately $4.5 billion a year. At the same time, manufacturing represents 31 percent of Chautauqua County's total payroll, or $424.7 million - which significantly impacts local wages, benefits, tax income to public coffers, home ownership and purchases of goods and services. Importantly, jobs in manufacturing pay family-sustaining wages and provide important benefits such as health insurance.
Surveys conducted by the Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier have identified that there is significant demand on the part of manufacturers to fill job openings. Approximately 270 manufacturing jobs need to be filled on an annual basis. These job openings are largely a result of the retirement of baby boomers and the exit of skilled workers from the manufacturing sector. The lack of a skilled workforce will endanger the vital local manufacturing base.
In response, the MAST and the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce have been proactive in addressing this issue through the Dream it Do It program. Dream It Do It reaches out to students, as well as parents, teachers, counselors and school administrators, with a focus on building and leveraging relationships to tell the important story about manufacturing and career opportunities. DIDI is working with all 18 school districts in Chautauqua County as well as BOCES and local post-secondary institutions to take on the challenge. For example, the DIDI Adopt-A-School initiative pairs school districts with manufacturing companies to ensure that there are hands-on learning opportunities throughout the school year. Eight school districts and companies from all over the county are participating in the Adopt-A-School program. Since its inception in 2009, DIDI has reached over 12,000 primary and secondary students with positive messages about advanced manufacturing careers through in-school presentations, plant tours and career fairs.
DIDI also provides an eight-week summer internship program that allows students to get hands-on experience in a manufacturing setting, with 34 internships over the past three years. This year, summer interns were placed with eleven local firms including Producto Corporation. Producto Plant Manager Greg Timko said, "The DIDI program has been a great experience for both parties involved. Ring Precision Components has been able to expose the students to the actual engineering/manufacturing environment they will work in one day and we in turn have been able to evaluate the caliber of students the program is producing. This is the type of partnership industry needs with the educators that are shaping the individuals that will someday drive our companies into the future."
It will take continued partnerships, hard work and investments to help this county retain the local manufacturing base and supply the sector with a workforce. If you want to learn how you can get involved, give us a call at 716-484-1101 or 716-366-6200.
Insurance exchange webinar set for Aug. 20
One of the top concerns for businesses is the rising cost of health insurance and what is going to happen next in this ever-changing environment. The Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce forged a relationship several years ago with Liazon Corporation to bring the Bright Choices exchange to Chamber members. Hundreds of local companies have participated in order to help employers manage their healthcare costs and to offer improved benefit plans.
Liazon will hold a webinar on Wednesday, Aug. 20 from 1 to 2 p.m. to provide additional information about health insurance exchanges. Topics will include: What is a private exchange?; what problems do exchanges solve?; and components of a good exchange.
To learn how you can participate in this informative webinar, email Sheila Webster, the Chamber's director of marketing and communications, at email@example.com to receive a registration link.
Chamber First Friday in Westfield
The Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce is proud to join with the Westfield-Barcelona Community Chamber of Commerce to host a special end-of-season First Friday Networking Event on Friday, Sept. 5. Throughout the summer, the Westfield-Barcelona Chamber has been hosting First Friday networking opportunities throughout the village. The Sept. 5 evening will close out the summer season and will be held in the historic former Welch's building at 2 S. Portage St., Westfield, which is now being marketed for re-use. This event is sponsored by Liazon Corporation. To register, call the Chamber at 366-6200 or 484-1101 or register online at www.chautauquachamber.org.
Save the date
Save the date for the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Banquet. This event, which honors a number of individuals, businesses and organizations each year, will be held Thursday, Oct. 9 at the Williams Center at SUNY Fredonia. Details for the dinner and a complete list of award winners will be announced shortly. Watch this space for more information coming soon!