Anyone "can learn to tighten a nut forever" sings the Henry Ford character in the musical "Ragtime." However, that leaves the impression that factory work is full of repetitive, unimportant tasks -- not necessarily what manufacturing is today.|
If there is some repetitiveness to a task, it is still important, said Randy Giedt, plant manager at PPD in Madison. "Even the smallest of jobs is critical" to making a quality product, he said.
People often don't think technology is involved in factory work, said Madison Chamber of Commerce Director Rosie Jamison, when in reality, more factory jobs are specialty or technology-based, "with engineering and special skills and education needed," she said.
Royce Quamen with Integra Plastics said there is a skill set that manufacturing employees need. With certain jobs at their plant, skills are "still an art. You need experience to make a good seal," he said.
To show people what manufacturing work can include, the Chamber and the Lake Area Improvement Corporation are sponsoring tours of four area facilities on Thursday and Friday. This event coincides with South Dakota Manufacturing Week, a focus of the S.D. Chamber of Commerce and the Office of Economic Development to enhance awareness about manufacturing.
The tours will "allow people to see more opportunities behind the plant doors," said Jamison. Besides critical jobs, and those that require expertise or diverse skills, there can be high security, so tours are not possible with some of the manufacturing facilities in Madison. This is due to confidentiality or contracts with government agencies such as the Department of Defense, Jamison said.
Still, some facilities are able to sponsor tours, so for the first time, area residents will be able to visit four of Madison's 17 manufacturing facilities.
On Thursday, the public is welcome to visit Manitou (915 S.W. 7th St.) at 8:30 a.m. and Rosebud (701 S.E. 12th St.) at 9:45 a.m. On Friday, guests can visit Falcon Plastics (605 S.W. 7th) at 8:30 a.m. and Integra Plastics (500 S.W. 13th St.) at 9:45 a.m.
Giedt said these tours are a good idea. Even though PPD is not one of the tour sites, he said he is "an advocate of trying to show the public what we do and how we contribute."
Quamen agrees that the event is "good for overall community understanding."
The tours also help fight the perception that everything is made overseas, Giedt said.
"The U.S. can do well and provide stabilization and quality products," he said.
Giedt also sees how much manufacturing contributes in Madison. The impact of manufacturing in the town is "huge," he said.
Manufacturing accounts for 900 jobs in Madison, Jamison said, and those salaries produce a ripple effect. For every $1 spent in manufacturing, another $1.48 is added to the economy, according to the National Association of Manufacturing web site.
Other statistics include:
- in 2012, manufacturers contributed $1.87 trillion to the economy.
- manufacturing supports around 17.2 million jobs.
- the average worker earns $77,060, including pay and benefits.
Julie Gross, director of LAIC, adds some state statistics. Manufacturing employees are about 10 percent of the state's workforce and make an average annual wage of over $42,000. Including benefits, that results in a total payroll of $1.7 billion dollars. South Dakota manufacturing output accounted for nine percent of the state's GDP in 2011. Exports go to more than 133 foreign countries.
Another advantage provided by the manufacturing tours is for people to "understand the employment opportunities in the community," said Jamison, meaning both current and future employees. The tours will hopefully entice people currently in the work force to consider careers in manufacturing.
"We want youth to consider manufacturing options as they consider their career preparation for the future," Jamison added.
"It's easier to retain than recruit," so if young people want to stay at home, they need opportunity, Jamison said.
Quamen agrees that by providing the community with a better understanding of what businesses like Integra are all about, "we can keep more people around."
"The key is to inspire [young people] and let them see the possibilities," Jamison said, adding that high school classes have been invited to attend the tours as well.
The U.S. Departments of Commerce and Agriculture, along with the EPA and Small Business Administration, recently released $7 million in grants through "Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership."
When presenting these awards, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack said, "There is unlimited potential in the years ahead to create good, new manufacturing jobs in rural America."