Manufacturers Speak Out


    MUSKEGON — Technical training, community support and networking opportunities were some of the suggestions Muskegon area manufacturers had for area organizations at a Manufacturer’s Summit hosted by the Muskegon County Manufacturers Council.

    The council, facilitated by the Muskegon Area Chamber of Commerce and Muskegon Area First, hosted the summit late last month at the Grand Valley State University Michigan Alternative and RenewableEnergyCenter in hopes of learning what the two organizations could do to best support the industry.

    More than 38 representatives from area manufacturers attended, discussing issues in groups and then presenting to the larger audience during the luncheon.

    Tom Dake, Kendall Electric Inc.’s local manager for Muskegon and Grand Rapids, said he thought the summit was beneficial, though he had hoped more companies would be represented.

    “The communication and the sharing that came out of this today is more of what we need,” he said.

    Dake said the summit allowed everyone to have a say — and they shared openly.

    “Everyone here is interested in keeping manufacturing viable for the future,” he said.

    A member of the Manufacturers Council Energy Efficiency User Group, Dake said he hopes the summit was successful in informing the organizations of the needs of area manufacturers.

    “I hope that they heard the message that we really need their support,” he said.

    Manufacturers were asked questions about the role of the community in supporting manufacturing, the pressing issues for the next two to three years, the most important management issues, and about what the chamber and Muskegon Area First can do for manufacturers.

    Many present at the summit expressed concerns about having a work force to support future positions, with employees who are willing to be punctual and reliable, as well as willing to cross train and perform a variety of functions as a part of their position. With retirements looming, some said it would be difficult to fill all the jobs that will be opening in the next few years.

    Company representatives also said they were concerned with instilling an interest in manufacturing in younger people, letting them and the community know that manufacturing is still a viable part of the economy.

    Further job training and education was discussed, as well as networking and learning opportunities between companies to help one another learn about best practices.

    Eugenia Brown, business development specialist for Muskegon Area First and staff liaison for the Muskegon County Manufacturers Council, said the summit went well, especially as an inaugural event.

    “We were (happy) to obtain a lot of information in terms of what manufacturers’ needs are,” she said. “Now we have some tools to work with in helping us to better serve the manufacturing community. The next step is to implement some of the things that were taken from the summit.”

    Brown said some projects have already begun along the lines of what the manufacturers discussed at the summit, including community awareness of manufacturing, education and training programs and a health care consortium to discuss health care issues.

    “We feel good about that; we’re on track,” she said. “There’s not a huge gap there where we have to do a 360-degree turn.”

    Brown said she was excited to see that companies were willing to work with the younger generation of employees to make the workplace more conducive to their work style.

    “They want to adjust to a younger work force, which I thought was quite interesting,” she said. “It’s a totally different generation from the baby boomers and Generation X.”

    The companies know they have to be innovative and creative with the new work force, Brown said, and they will be looking for well-trained candidates.

    “If we could get a nice pool of trained people out there, that would be really helpful for them within the next two to three years,” she said.

    Brown said a report from the summit would be available in November after the Manufacturers Council reviews the information.    

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