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The rich history in manufacturing in Jamestown, coupled with plans now in place to grow the manufacturing base here, make the celebration of Manufacturing Day a perfect fit for our area.
The history of manufacturing in Jamestown extends back to 1815 when the first saw mills and grist mills were put into operation – providing lumber for the growing community and helping feed the population. Cabinet making soon followed and by 1827 businesses on record in Jamestown included: furniture factories, woolen mills, printing companies, paving brick factories, wrench and tool fabrication sites, voting machine production, piano making, mirrors and washing machines.
Records from 1915 show Jamestown was home to 96 manufacturing firms large enough to be considered principal employers. There were an additional 73 smaller operations with fewer than 50 employees.
For most of that century, locally made manufactured products were the norm in towns and cities across the country and Jamestown was no exception – creating goods for the growing population.
Over time, the face of manufacturing changed – labor costs rose, automation became more common, new technology was developed and manufacturers faced the challenge of finding workers with a new and different set of skills.
Five years ago three industry leaders – the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership came together to create a celebration of manufacturing and employers nationwide for the opportunity to show the public what manufacturing is — and what it isn’t. Open houses, seminars and field trips addressed the labor shortage, sought to change the public image of manufacturing, connect with new workers and ensure prosperity and growth for the industry.
In Chautauqua County the sales of manufactured goods tally up to $4.5 billion dollars and produces a nearly $425 million annual payroll. Seventeen percent of the workforce, about 9500 people, work in local manufacturing every day. Research from the Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier indicates 250 jobs open up annually due to expansion, retirement and other industry needs.
Local companies, The Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier and the Dream It, Do It (DIDI) initiative of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce partnered with JCC and a number of public schools to celebrate Manufacturing Day in Jamestown.
Students and their teachers were given the opportunity to tour local manufacturing plants, hear from company officials, learn about jobs and the skills needed. In addition, 17 area teachers attended a professional development day to meet with manufacturers and return to their classrooms with first hand knowledge of the skill sets students will need.
Justin Hanft, DIDI coordinator with the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce, worked hand in hand with school districts, teachers, students, companies, employers and employees to make this event a success.
In the three years Justin has headed the DIDI initiative he reports “…real progress and growth in this celebration…..700 young people get exposure to local businesses, a firsthand view of what manufacturing involves. Interns from the DIDI project move into jobs and have satisfying, sustainable careers right here in Chautauqua County.”
Mark Shafer, Director of Operations at HEIDENHAIN and president of the Manufacturers Association summed it up by saying “… there is a place in manufacturing for practically everyone. We need people who understand and are good at creative design, marketing, communications, finance, customer service, sales and management. We need people with skills in science, technology, engineering and math. The work we do here… at every single manufacturing facility in the region is interesting and eye opening to those who have the opportunity to see it. Manufacturers in the region are using state-of-the-art technology and processes to create and build products that can be found throughout the world.”