Manufacturing in Jamestown: Today and Beyond

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A group of students in the Dream It. Do It. program took a tour of Stuart Tool and Die.

Contributing Writer
Joni Blackman

Does your family have a history of working in the factories in the Jamestown area? In the past, if one could land a factory job out of high school, they stayed in that job for decades and had economic security. It could be the same now, with the right training. “The manufacturing sector is strong and going well. While there are some outliers, in general, most companies are in good to quite good shape,” said Mark Geise, Deputy County Executive for Economic Development and Chief Executive Officer of the County of Chautauqua Industrial Development Agency (CCIDA). “Building the workforce is still a challenge. Some companies have pivoted to automation, robots, cobots (collaborative robots), etc. while others transformed their workforce to work smarter,” added Geise, “part of the workforce challenge is that unemployment is low, so the people who want to work have a job. There is a great need for a trained manufacturing workforce.” Today’s manufacturing technician needs to be part IT “guy”, part electrician, and part mechanic.

Across the Nation

Economic activity in the manufacturing sector grew in August, with the overall economy achieving a 27th consecutive month of growth, say the nation’s supply executives in the latest Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®. “Manufacturing performed well for the 27th straight month. With (1) supplier delivery performance recording its fourth straight month of improvement, (2) price increase growth slowing significantly for the second consecutive month, (3) hiring and total employment both positive and expanding and (4) lead times easing across all three categories of purchasing activity, the sector is at or approaching supply/demand equilibrium,” says Timothy R. Fiore, CPSM, C.P.M., Chair of the Institute for Supply Management® (ISM®) Manufacturing Business Survey Committee.

While the national statistics report a very slight increase in employment, that is not the case locally. Todd Tranum, Executive Director of the Manufacturers Association of the Southern Tier (MAST) & President of Dream It Do It WNY, said, “Manufacturing is the economic base of our region. Manufacturers are very busy with lots of orders. I admire and recognize the daily problem-solving these companies must do to fulfill their customer’s needs. Many have invested in technology to automate their production lines. They still need technicians who are skilled in running and maintaining the machines.”

The Workforce Pipeline

Tranum added, “it is incumbent on MAST and other organizations to provide the training to support the needs of the local manufacturers, to support the workforce pipeline to provide technicians for our manufacturers who in turn provide good paying jobs for our community families.”

Students learning about production at Fancher Chair.

The main organizations involved in the workforce pipeline are:

  • Dream It. Do It. which works with all primary and secondary age students, introducing them to the manufacturing sector
  • P-Technology school that provides high school age students with a 2-year degree in a variety of disciplines needed in modern manufacturing
  • Jamestown Community College’s MTI (Manufacturing Training Institute), and Workforce Development programs.

Francine Rondenell has been the director of the Dream It. Do It. WNY program since July 2021. Ms. Rondenell who has re-started the successful program following the worst of the pandemic said, “projected program numbers are approximately 3000 student interactions within the next year. During the next year, I plan to expand Dream It. Do It. Chautauqua outreach by engaging with after-school and out-of-school programming such as the Boys and Girls Clubs and The Girl Scouts, as well as by conducting in-class presentations on career opportunities in the manufacturing industry and professional skills. Our large events such as STEM Wars, Girls in Manufacturing Day with JCC, and Manufacturing tours will continue and grow. Our program is proud to add events such as the DIDI 500 in collaboration with SUNY Fredonia as well as the Young Manufacturers Academy next summer. “

Todd Tranum added, “P-Tech has amazing students that come out of the secondary level with the skills to be innovative and successful. JCC has built new programming and retooled the current curriculum at MTI to meet the community’s needs.”

The Retool ’22 Conference and the Future of Manufacturing

New York State Governor Kathy Hochul has announced initiatives to build and modify homes and businesses to be all-electric as well as building electric vehicles by 2035. What are the next steps for manufacturers and entrepreneurs to learn how they can transition into the future of manufacturing?

Lucky for Jamestown that the BPU is hosting the Retool ’22 -A Climate Tech Conference October 17-19. According to Ellen Ditonto, BPU Business Development Coordinator, “this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our local businesses. We need them to remain in business. The conference will introduce the attendees to new concepts and ideas, spotlight success stories and, give them opportunities and information to connect with funding organizations. The federal government and NY State have large amounts of funds to make their transitions successful.” Some of the ways manufacturers can begin to embrace this change to greener production and new products are to reduce their utility costs, produce electric vehicle parts, heat pump parts, etc. Those in the metal pressing and fabrication sector, for instance, could learn from Dahlstrom Rollform who is producing solar panel framing.

“Students from the local colleges will be attending too. They are our future innovators, entrepreneurs and technicians,” said Ms. Ditonto.

To celebrate our manufacturing roots and bright future, all are invited to attend the Manufacturing Day event on October 7 at 8 AM at the MTI building across from the main Jamestown Community College campus.

One can see there is energy and interest to provide both the employees and employers with what they need to continue to build on Jamestown’s legacy as a manufacturing city.