The 18 companies that comprise Champaign County’s manufacturing sector were recognized by city, county and state officials during the Champaign Economic Partnership’s (CEP) Manufacturers Celebration Breakfast held Wednesday in the auditorium of the Champaign County Community Center in Urbana.
CEP Economic Development Director Marcia Bailey said the breakfast has been organized for the past five years as a way to not only highlight the successes of local manufacturers, but to also thank them for their investment in the community.
“If it wasn’t for the manufacturers, we wouldn’t have the employment numbers that we have, and the products that are made here that are international products,” she said. “It’s just amazing what the companies here in our little community make.”
Prior to presenting “Keeping Champaign County Strong” certificates to the manufacturers on behalf of the county and city, county Commissioner Steve Hess and Urbana Mayor Bill Bean shared with those in attendance how important the manufacturing sector is to the county as a whole.
Hess called local manufacturers “one of the bedrock foundation providers for our community,” adding it’s important the county shows its appreciation for these companies.
“One of the important deciding factors in why a company decides to locate in a particular community was once told to me, that it’s based on how much that company feels like the community wants them to be there,” he said. “We want to let (manufacturers) know we are glad they are here and thank them for all the contributions they’ve made by not only providing jobs, but sponsoring events and contributing in a lot of different ways to efforts that are in this community.”
Bean added the manufacturing sector helps keep the county ticking.
“Manufacturing in our community and our communities – the villages and even out in the townships – is the lifeblood of our community,” he said. “It’s what (the manufacturers) bring to the community. The employment that (manufacturers) have that really makes everything go round.”
The list of manufacturing companies in the county honored Wednesday includes Bundy Baking Solutions, WEIDMANN Electrical Technology, KTH Parts Industries, Ultra-met Company, The Hall Company, Rosewood Machine and Tool Company, Advanced Technology Products, Sarica Manufacturing, ORBIS Corporation, Desmond-Stephan Manufacturing, Hughey & Phillips, Parker Trutec, Rittal Corporation, Johnson Welded Products, Robert Rothschild Farm, Colepak, International Fiber Corporation and Honeywell Aerospace.
Future workforce concerns
According to statistics provided by the CEP, manufacturing jobs in the county have increased since 2014 from 3,487 to 3,725.
While job creation has increased, the average age of the workforce has also increased, which is a cause for concern, Bailey said.
In 2014, 49 percent of the manufacturing jobs in Champaign County were held by individuals 45 years of age or older.
This year, Bailey said, that number has increased to 51 percent in the age bracket who are “looking at retirement sooner, not later,” which has created some “nervousness” locally.
In hopes of reversing the trend, the CEP and Champaign County Ohio Manufacturing HR Council has implemented programs over the past few years to help educate county youths on career opportunities in the manufacturing sector. Events that have been created to help increase exposure include the YMCA Inventor’s Workshop, Manufacturing Day tours/presentations, and a manufacturing-related display at the Champaign County Fair.
“This whole emphasis is trying to make sure that the younger generation understands what manufacturing is and understands the skills, the products, where the education is, and what they need for their education to be able to work in these fields,” Bailey said.
Stephen White, general counsel for Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), presented a letter and proclamation to each of the county’s manufacturers on behalf of the senator. He said concerns over having enough qualified workers to fill current and future vacancies in the manufacturing sector is an issue not only in Champaign County, bu throughout the state.
“Some of the manufacturers come up to the senator and say …’We are growing. We have opportunities, and we have job openings. Unfortunately, we struggle sometimes to find talent,’” he said.
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.