One of the topics often mentioned as part of economic renewal is restoring communities' appreciation for local industry. How can you help connect the dots?
In the last few years, hiring skilled employees in manufacturing has become increasingly difficult. Adding to the problem is the decline of technical education. In fact, according to the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, only 6 percent of U.S. high schools currently offer shop classes. As a result, the organization says companies need to actively engage with their communities to make a positive impression of the manufacturing industry and opportunities.
In addition to re-establishing internship and apprenticeship programs that cater to high school and college students and other individuals considering manufacturing careers, you may consider awards program involvement and sustainability efforts as avenues to community connection.
In Sheboygan Falls, Wis., Bemis Manufacturing Company makes plastic products for bathrooms, healthcare settings and other venues. Sustainable environmental practices have helped Bemis connect with its local community. For example, the company developed processes to integrate post-consumer plastics and wood waste into its material mix and switched from a solvent-based to a water-based coating process to minimize hazardous emissions. Bemis recycles and uses recycled products--including water from the company's own processes and storm water runoff captured in company-constructed retention ponds. To further reduce its footprint, Bemis adopted an interruptible power program to reduce local brownouts and donated its original plant site on the scenic Sheboygan River as a city park. It has cleaned up a nearby brownfield and created open green spaces, natural prairies, and walking and bike paths open to the public.
Applying for awards and attending local or industry business events may also position your company well. The Silver Crescent Foundation, for example, honors manufacturing organizations for their contributions to South Carolina's educational system, commitment to workforce, environmental stewardship, and product or process improvements. This year, the foundation brought 350 manufacturing executives together with community leaders for an awards luncheon and networking event. It also named this year's 22 finalists in a press release that was ready for the winners' local newspapers to print--and provided further publicity for the three companies that won the top awards.
As you launch activities like these, it's critical to maintain open communication with local civic groups and news outlets. These steps increase the positive perception of your company in the larger community.
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