Grinding It Out

Despite tough economic times, manufacturing has become one of Chautauqua County’s most productive industries.

On Friday, representatives of local manufacturing and education met at Jamestown Community College’s Manufacturing Technology Institute to celebrate National Manufacturing Day 2013, an event that highlighted the promise of manufacturing across the country.

“Manufacturing is not dead in Jamestown and Chautauqua County. It’s very much alive and well,” said John Zabrodsky, president of the Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier. “It has helped lead our country out of the Great Recession, and it’s been very vibrant (locally).”

Manufacturing is notably the largest employer in Chautauqua County, employing nearly 22 percent of the population, according to Zabrodsky.

“(These employers) were doubly hard hit by the recession,” said Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards. “(I’m optimistic) because we’re poised right now to take advantage of a number of assets (like Dream It Do It).”

In 2009, the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce teamed with Dream It Do It, a national initiative to promote and influence the perception of manufacturing careers. The partnership was in large part due to a growing number of workers who lacked the necessary skills for advanced manufacturing.

This, coupled with the Chautauqua County Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, Education Coalition has increased the outreach to young people who typically don’t see manufacturing as a viable career option.

“A lot of students don’t know about advanced manufacturing,” said Peter C. Beeson, director of the Chautauqua STEM Education Coalition. “We want them to know that there is a local employment need (for manufacturers) and if they receive advanced degrees elsewhere, they can stay local.”

The Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier insists that manufacturing is now technologically advanced, infusing 3-D printing, robots and automation. The average annual salary of a worker is more than $77,000, with many having medical benefits.

“Manufacturing (in Chautauqua County) is here to stay,” Zabrodsky said. “(It) remains the backbone of the U.S. economy and the foundation of our regional economy.”