I-L students get a glimpse of advanced manufacturing

10-13 Aavid tour 2


Luke Gregory of Aavid Thermalloy in Laconia demonstrates the heat transfer properties of a copper tube to 13 Advanced Placement calculus and computer science students from Inter-Lakes High School, who visited the plant yesterday for Manufacturing Week. (Michael Kitch/Laconia Daily Sun)


LACONIA — "This is really not what I expected," said Matthew Dufffield, one of a baker's dozen of students from Inter-Lakes High School who visited the headquarters of Aavid Thermalloy, LLC on Wednesday during Manfacturing Week. Duffield said that the openness, orderliness and cleanliness of the facility came as a surprise.

During Manufacturing Week 70 firms across the state — nearly a dozen in the Lakes Region — open their doors to students to introduce them to the opportunities of pursuing careers in manufacturing and engineering , where both the demand and rewards for employees are high. The first step, reflected by Duffield's reaction, is to dispel the image of manufacturing as repetitive, rote work requiring limited knowledge and skill and undertaken in unpleasant settings.

The students, all but one members of the advanced placement calculus and computer science classes taught by Jennifer Thomas, split their morning between Aavid Thermalloy and its neighbor in the O'Shea Industrial Park, New Hampshire Ball Bearing. Founded in Laconia in 1964, Aavid Thermalloy designs and manufactures thermal management products of metals, which are applied in a wide variety of setting where heat is generated, including telecommunications networks, data centers and consumer electronics as well as a variety of industries.

At Aavid all seemed intrigued by their introduction to advanced manufacturing. They regularly questioned their hosts, Dave Lacroix, production control manager, and Norm Laramie, manufacturing manager, and were especially intrigued by Luke Gregory, a design engineer who fashions and tests products to meet the particular, often challenging, specifications of customers, among them dispelling the heat generated by stadium lighting.

"I appreciate opportunities like this," said Joshua Schmalie, who stayed behind to question Gregory after he demonstrated the properties of a simple copper rod that transferred heat from a beaker of water. The son of computer programmer, Schmalie said he enjoyed both engineering and computer science and intended to apprentice with his father before enrolling in college, where he would choose between the two. He said while he would not expect to work on the shop floor, he would enjoy designing and engineering products.

For Tyler Reid the visit was something of a revelation as he was not aware of the high-tech advanced manufacturing enterprises serving global markets in the region. Fascinated by flying, he wants to become an aeronautical engineer, but to spend time in the air before turning to design, particularly the secrets of flight itself.

The one student not enrolled in the advanced placement classes, sophomore Noah Bell Fontaine, was perhaps the most enthusiastic of all. Noting that his grandfather worked at New Hampshire Ball Bearing, he said "I like to work with metal. Anything to do with metal." He said he worked in the shop at school, but enjoyed coming to Aavid Thermalloy "to get an idea of what I would like to do."

There were two young women in the class, both of whom intended to study engineering Catherine Robert said that while her preference is electrical engineering, she found the visit an opportunity see firsthand how theoretical knowledge is transformed into practical applications. Brianna Knauss, the daughter of a machinist who operates what she called his own "one man shop," was no stranger to the shop floor and also expects to become an engineer.

Last year, nearly two-thirds of the 1,600 students visiting manufacturing facilities during the week reported they were "only somewhat informed, if at all" of advanced manufacturing. Following their visits, 61 percent said they would be more likely to consider in the manufacturing sector.

Thomas said that her students are an especially accomplished group, most of whom have begun to plot their future after graduation. She said that Manufacturing Week has presented them with an opportunity to get a close look at where they could find themselves in the years to come.

10-13 Aavid tour

Dave Lacroix, production control manager at Aavid Thermalloy in Laconia, displays a component machined to a fine tolerance in their shop to students from Inter-Lakes High School. (Michael Kitch/Laconia Daily Sun)

Mayor makes case for commercial development at The Weirs


LACONIA — Mayor Ed Engler this week answered critics of the City Council's proposal to rezone The Weirs in order to redress the imbalance between residential and commercial property in the city.

Engler has said that a major goal of the plan, which would restrict residential development within a corridor running alongside US Route 3, is to encourage commercial development.

The mayor has explained that the value of commercial property and buildings accounts for just 15.8 percent of the city's total assessed property valuation. Only in Berlin at 12.1 percent and Franklin at 13.4 percent is commercial property a smaller portion of the property tax base. Residential property represents 82.6 percent of the total assessed valuation, the largest share among the 13 cities in the state. City Manager Scott Myers has suggested that a healthy balance would be nearer 35 percent commercial and 65 percent residential.

At the same time, with 20.1 square miles of land, Laconia is among the smallest cities in the state and land suited to commercial development is scarce. The Planning Department has identified 32 large lots served by municipal utilities that are either vacant or underdeveloped. Altogether, these lots represent 465 acres, of which 28 lots covering 446 acres, or 96 percent of the total acreage, are in the Commercial Resort District, most of them along the proposed corridor.

Warren Hutchins, chairman of the Planning Board, questions the need to encourage commercial development when there are vacant or underused commercial properties across the city. Some said that Laconia should not be compared with other cities but instead with neighboring towns. Others dismissed the issue, saying the same property tax rate applies to all property, commercial and residential alike.

When the City Council met this week, Engler countered these statements by offering a simple hypothetical example. Assume two municipalities, each with 5,000 residents, where the average home price is $300,000 and the residential tax base is $1.5 billion.

In one municipality, "A," the mayor said, the value of commercial property amounts to $78,947,358, or 5 percent of the total tax base of $1,578.947. The town raises $35 million in property taxes with a tax rate of $22.17.

By contrast, in municipality "B" the value of commercial property amounted $807,692,308, or 35 percent of the total tax base of $2,307,692,308. Since "B" has more property than "A," it has greater expenses and raises $40,000,000 in taxes, but its larger tax base, its tax rate is $17.33.

Homeowners in "A" pay $6,651 in annual property taxes while their counterparts in "B" pay $5,199, a difference of $1,452.

Engler said that the higher property taxes in communities with relatively little commercial property increases the cost of housing, which diminishes their appeal to home buyers. The population of the city, he noted, has not grown significantly in 60 years. While the mayor allowed that some communities accept high home prices and property taxes to preserve their traditional character, he said does not believe this course would be in the best interests of the city.

Skills needed - Experienced workers essential for local manufacturers


LACONIA — The major need of local manufacturing companies companies is for more skilled labor according to Rich Bardellini, executive vice president of New Hampshire Ball Bearings, who was one of the featured speakers Wednesday morning at a breakfast meeting at the Belknap Mill which kicked off a week-long celebration of manufacturing in the Granite State.
Bardellini, whose company employs 475 people at its Astro Division plant in the O’Shea Industrial Park, where its new product development center is located, said that advanced manufacturing requires the development of a skilled workforce which will provide a “deep bench” for manufacturing companies like his.
“Our biggest challenge is finding skilled labor, in some cases just labor, as we are willing to train people,” said Bardellini, who said that it is difficult when as many as 15 percent of job applicants can’t pass drug screening tests.
He said that New Hampshire Ball Bearings plays an active role in the community and works closely with the Huot Center at Laconia High School and the advanced manufacturing program at Lakes Region Community College.
He called for more efforts to market manufacturing jobs to young people as future career paths and working to overcome the impression that many of them have that manufacturing jobs are dirty and unrewarding.
“We’ve got to do a better job in our schools. We’re hosting tours for kids this week to show them that it’s a clean workplace and that there are opportunities for good pay and a long career. There are other jobs than just sitting in front of a computer all day and in which you actually make things using your hands and your brain,” said Bardellini.
Also speaking at the event was state Sen. Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia), who said he saw in his own family that manufacturing jobs helped create the American middle class and that is important to reach today’s young students the message that manufacturing jobs offer them a chance to work in a profession which pays above average wages and opportunities for advancement.
Hosmer said he can see from working in the AutoServ dealership the importance of having well trained auto technicians. “We couldn’t do our job without them.”
He said local manufacturers tell him their most common challenge is finding skilled workers, that it’s essential “to change the image of manufacturing” in order to get more young people interested.
Hosmer said he hopes that after the election is over this fall and what he called “the toxic political environment” is over  that state lawmakers can concentrate on sound public policy which will meet the challenges New Hampshire faces.
The program was presented by the Belknap Economic Development Council and the Belknap Mill Society and was sponsored by Titeflex Aerospace.
Allison Ambrose, president of the Belknap Mill Society, said that the Belknap Mill was a fitting place to hold the celebration. She said that the mill, built in 1823, is the oldest unaltered brick textile mill in the United States and stands as a reminder of the Lakes Region’s industrial heritage.

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State Sen. Andrew Hosmer (D-Laconia) speaks about the need for a skilled workforce at a New Hampshire Manufacturing Week event held at the Belknap Mill. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

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Rich Bardellini, executive vice president of New Hampshire Ball Bearings, speaks about the need for a skilled workforce at a New Hampshire Manufacturing Week event held at the Belknap Mill. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

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