Alan Robichaud - Opening a window to Lakes Region manufacturing might

  • Published in Columns
A glimpse of the global marketplace was on display this past week when Belknap EDC sponsored several tours of local manufacturers who process and ship their products around the world. Being a nearly life-long resident of the Lakes Region and never having set foot inside some of the host manufacturers, I am probably more the norm of a typical resident who wonders,"what do they do inside those walls?"
I must say that I was totally surprised and impressed with much of what I saw and heard from those conducting tours of our manufacturing plants. First, to note that each of those companies I visited produce top quality components that are used all around the world, including some out of this world such as in the space lab and shuttles, was impressive. These precision products require high scrutiny in the manufacturing process and to my second point, the continuous quality improvement techniques used to harness their corners of the world's competitive market was astounding. In all cases, our hosts spoke with great pride in their work, in their people, and in their products. They were sensitive to quality on all levels including protecting the environment, not only here in our own back yard but wherever their companies exist throughout the world.
Belknap EDC along with Granite United Way, Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, Huot Technical Center, Lakes Region Community College, Meredith Career Partnership, and others have been working collectively with local businesses to expand the career exploration and internship possibilities for local students through an initiative we call 200 X 2020. We hope to engage a minimum of 200 businesses in the fully array of cradle to career opportunities for students by 2020 so that we can assure a vibrant economy through a highly skilled workforce in a revived manufacturing climate right here in the Lakes Region.
While several local students participated in the plant tours, seeking an advantage in planning their higher education and career opportunities, not nearly enough benefitted from this wonderful experience to see the future in the making. Manufacturing is making a rebound in the U.S. and right here at home. Our companies universally stated their need for skilled employees. Students hearing their presentations know very clearly the academic and behavioral experiences needed to compete in the advanced manufacturing arena. Over and over we heard minimal requirements including middle math, blueprint literacy, computer skills, communications, critical thinking, problem solving and positive attitudes being essential entry level basics and everything on up. Our youth don't have to leave the area to find highly skilled, excellent paying jobs with benefits and clean working conditions but they do have to be ready to compete in an ever-increasingly competitive environment.
If you missed the manufacturing open houses this year, be the first to attend next time they are offered. Parents and teachers: be sure to give your students access to this inspiring experience. It will be one of the best opportunities you have to expose them to their future workforce opportunities in the exciting field of advanced manufacturing. It will help them select prerequisite academic courses while still in high school and it will certainly point them to and prepare them for appropriate higher education programs.
I want to sincerely thank Belknap EDC and all the manufacturers who opened their facilities to this year's Open House Tour and urge you to consider doing more of this in the future. It was eye-opening and impressive. It is incumbent on us all to support this industry for there to be hope for the future growth and development of our local economy. Advanced manufacturing is vibrant and on the cutting edge of tomorrow's technology. Let's make sure that its future is ours as well!
(Alan Robichaud is community development director for Granite United Way.)