Chamber Chat - Manufacturing Day 2017

Oct 15

By Meg Moss


Manufacturing Day is a celebration of modern manufacturing meant to inspire the next generation of manufacturers. Manufacturing Day occurs on the first Friday in October, and was celebrated in Lee County at both Mertek Solutions, and at Central Carolina Community College’s Innovation Center. Accoring to its website, “Manufacturing Day is an annual celebration of modern manufacturing during which manufacturers invite their communities — including students, educators, businesspeople, media, and politicians — to their facilities in an effort to educate people about manufacturing career opportunities and to improve public perceptions of manufacturing.”

It’s not just about “working on the line” anymore. While repetitive manual jobs still provide a large number of needed jobs, there are also a large number of automation and electrical engineers, machine operators, maintenance technicians and welders. Manufacturing facilities also employ attorneys, nurses, and human resource and finance professionals. The possibilities are endless in a manufacturing facility.

Lee County has a long history of manufacturing, and is known as a community that knows how to “make things”. The current home of the Sanford Area Growth Alliance was built in 1907 and was once the location of several different manufactures, to include the manufacturing site for buggies, netting for WWII ships, and table linens. In 1969, Coty moved to Lee County from New York, bringing not only its employees, but their families as well. And from 1970 – 1995, a team of dedicated business leaders brought over 60 industries and 8,000 manufacturing jobs to Lee County. And more recently, since the inception of the Sanford Area Growth Alliance (SAGA) in 2015, another 1,000 manufacturing jobs have been added.

Fast forward over 20 years later, and manufacturing is still Lee County’s main source of employment. According to the Department of Commerce Labor and Economic Analysis Division (LEAD), of the 22,355 people who were employed in Lee County in 2016 (average for the year), 7, 516 of those people were employed in some type of manufacturing position. That’s thirty-three percent of our workforce employed due to manufacturing. The average weekly wages for these jobs in 2016 according to the LEAD was $942.50; while average weekly wages for all industry types was $738.05.

LEAD also tells us that of the twenty-five largest employers in Lee County, fifteen are in the manufacturing sector, and include: Coty, Belflex Staffing, Static Control, Caterpillar, Pilgrims, Pentair Water, Frontier Spinning, Tyson, Core-Mark, Moen, Magneti Marelli, GKN Automotive, Bear Creek Arsenal and Pfizer. And as we’ve recently seen in The Sanford Herald and through press releases from the Sanford Area Growth Alliance, jobs are growing at Pfizer, Magneti Marelli and Pilgrims.

As new industries consider locating in Lee County, or even as we swoon an automotive plant to locate at the nearby Megasite in Chatham County (knowing it will bring along with it manufacturing suppliers to our locale), we have to keep up the pace of training our workforce to meet the demands of the auto manufacturer’s needs. The key employee needs in an automotive plant are machine operators, electronic technicians, assembly workers, production workers, maintenance technicians, automotive mechanics, production supervisors, quality inspectors, welders, forklift operators and those with Commercial Drivers Licenses. Our own Central Carolina Community College (CCCC) already provides training for seven of these eleven key areas, and is poised and ready to add additional training areas as the need arises. Through both the curriculum side of the house, and the customized training options at the Innovation Center, CCCC can meet the training needs for the additional manufacturing jobs we expect to see.

It’s thanks to manufacturing that we have the things we have, such as cars, cosmetics and candy. And it’s thanks to the people who work hard each day to make these products. Manufacturing Day is just one day a year where we celebrate modern manufacturing; but every day, we should be thankful for it.

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