MACOMB COUNTY — In celebration of Manufacturing Day, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel visited a handful of successful manufacturing businesses across the county on Oct. 4.
Hackel and other county officials were seeking to generate greater appreciation for the manufacturing industry and its impact on the local economy. They took tours of Ideal Technologies in Shelby Township, a supplier of models and fixtures for the automotive and aerospace industries; PTI Engineered Plastics in Macomb Township, a company that provides low- and high-volume rapid injection molding and clean-room injection molding for the medical, automotive, defense, aerospace and consumer industries; Fori Automation in Shelby Township, a designer and builder of automated systems for a variety of industries; and Velocity in Sterling Heights, a center for collaborative economic development, where 10 Macomb County manufacturers discussed the types of jobs they are seeking to fill.
Manufacturing Day, or MFG Day, is part of a national awareness campaign focusing on the importance of the manufacturing industry and encouraging more people to enter the field. According to Hackel, his tours of local companies were intended to allow residents to see firsthand how advances in technology have improved the products being made, the efficiency of their production and the ability of manufacturers to be competitive within the industry.
“These are not the factories of yesteryear — they’re definitely not your grandpa’s factory,” Hackel said during his tour of PTI Engineered Plastics. “These are very clean, safe, high-tech facilities that can offer rewarding jobs for people in Macomb County. We also want kids to realize that manufacturing is a viable career option for them.”
PTI Engineered Plastics was founded in 1984 and currently boasts about 250 employees at its state-of-the-art, 150,000-square-foot facility in Macomb Township. CEO Mark Rathbone stated that although his company has bounced back from the economic downturn, he has had a difficult time finding workers with the proper training to fill open jobs.
“I’m delighted to be able to show people what we do here at PTI,” Rathbone said. “We lost a lot of people during the recession, but we weathered the storm and tightened our belts. But now that we’ve started hiring again, we only have so many human resources at our disposal. The hardest part is finding new people who are qualified.”
According to Hackel, Macomb County’s nearly 1,600 manufacturers provide employment to more than 65,000 individuals, and the industry appears to be in a period of booming growth. Of all the county’s employment sectors, manufacturing tops the list of new jobs with almost 15,000 added since 2009. In addition, many industry jobs — which range from machine operators to quality control inspectors, to engineers of various disciplines — pay well. Of the 25 most common manufacturing positions in the county, Hackel noted that the average hourly wage is $22.69.
Hackel further pointed out that, last month, Macomb Community College, on behalf of the Michigan Coalition for Advanced Manufacturing, was awarded a $24.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. This funding will support the efforts of eight Michigan community colleges to leverage growing opportunities in advanced manufacturing, in direct response to employer needs for skilled, trained individuals. Those targeted for training include displaced workers, employees who require updated skills, and military veterans.
At the local level, there has also been a recent push to increase industrial development and provide more manufacturing jobs. In June, Macomb Township Supervisor Janet Dunn hosted a workshop with more than 20 municipal, county and state officials to discuss the future of the manufacturing industry across the region.
There are currently about 446 acres of vacant industrial property in Macomb Township, mostly along major thoroughfares like 23 Mile and Hayes roads. According to Dunn, township officials are currently working to update their five-year-old master plan, and as part of that process, they have been talking to the owners of many of those vacant industrial buildings about ways to help them bring in new tenants.
“We’re striving to make sure that our building permits and applications are all in order, so that companies can just come in and pick up all the forms that they need to get started,” she said. “Eventually, we will pull all of that information together. We just want to make it easier for new companies to move in here without having to jump through a million hoops. That’s how we get our vacancy rate down and bring in more jobs to the township.”
Dunn noted that the Macomb Township Board of Trustees recently approved a tax abatement for one of its established companies, Triumph Gear, which will be making about $15 million worth of expansions and upgrades to its existing facility. Meanwhile, another local business, The Foam Factory, will soon be moving from its facility on Hall Road in Clinton Township to a larger building near 23 Mile and Romeo Plank roads.
For Hackel, developments like these are yet another positive sign that the county’s manufacturing sector has rebounded and is poised to keep growing.
“The manufacturing industry in Macomb County has come back stronger than ever since the recession hit,” he said. “There are a lot of well-paying job opportunities out there for people who are looking for them. We’re just trying to get people to realize that manufacturing is alive and well here in Macomb County.”
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