Herald-Whig View

Manufacturing sector fuels Quincy's economy

Posted: Oct. 8, 2017 12:01 am

MANUFACTURERS and logistics companies will participate in a new event this month to reach out to a generation that's poised to enter the workforce.

MakerFest will be held Oct. 18 at the Oakley-Lindsay Center, where hundreds of high school students will have the opportunity to learn what 19 area companies do and what jobs are available. Members of the public also will be admitted as the companies attempt to recruit employees.

Marcel Wagner Jr., president of the Great River Economic Development Foundation, said MakerFest is a celebration of manufacturing, as well as recognition of what some of the region's best employers have to offer.

However, Wagner also shared an anecdote about how even large, well-known companies can be misunderstood by people who live nearby.

"I was out at Titan Wheel recently and a woman who has lived here her whole life asked them, ‘What do you do here?' " Wagner said.

Not so many years ago, top employers had more job applicants than they could handle. Job seekers were drawn to the manufacturing sector by higher pay scales than were offered for most other jobs.

However, the appeal for manufacturing jobs slowly declined. Many potential employees discounted certain jobs because of outdated images of work sites as hot, dirty or dangerous. They were unaware of evolving work sites with climate-controlled areas, clean work zones and multiple safety features.

Most important, additional skills and specialized training have become necessary for many head-of-household jobs. Moreover, an aging workforce also has put more pressure on employers to find replacements. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity reports there are about 12,000 manufacturers in the state, responsible for 572,000 jobs. But about 25,000 workers from the baby boom generation are expected to retire each year over the next decade.

Mike Elbe, president of John Wood Community College, said Quincy, Adams County and the Tri-State area have a rich tradition for manufacturing.

"We have more than 100 manufacturing companies in this area, with many experiencing significant growth, creating a need for a skilled and trained workforce," he said. "When a student completes a career technical program, we want to make sure they're ready and trained to go into those jobs."

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates why manufacturing jobs are so important. Local jobs from the manufacturing sector have average annual wages of more than $50,000, meaning the direct impact of those jobs is nearly $260 million.

Locally, Craig Industries hosted the news conference where MakerFest details were shared. Joshua Craig said the company was founded by his father and uncle 31 years ago. Today the company has 130 employees, and it ships walk-in coolers, modular buildings, grow houses and cooler parts around the world.

Clearly, manufacturing jobs can continue to help fuel the local economy. So we welcome efforts to show a new generation of workers how skilled manufacturing jobs can lead to lifelong careers in the Tri-State region.

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