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Power in Partnership begins season with ‘Salute to Manufacturing’

By Liz Moomey
liz.moomey@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY —  For the first Rowan Chamber’s Power in Partnership of the season, Josh Ward, the National Association of Manufactures’ regional public affairs director, advocated for manufacturing on Thursday morning at Trinity Oaks.

To the 150 people audience, Ward informed them manufacturing is booming, despite the misconception that it is a dying industry.

“When I first got here this morning and this happens anytime I go somewhere, someone mentioned that they had a family member that worked in manufacturing and the job didn’t exist anymore and that’s common that people think jobs have gone away, manufacturing is dead, all the stuff we buy is coming from China — simply not true,” Ward said. “Manufacturing in general is on a growth path in America now.”

Ward said in the metropolitan statistical area, there are thousands of manufacturing jobs available and even more nationwide.

“There’s about 14,000 manufacturing jobs that have been available here this year,” he said. “That’s pretty high. The issue is across the country we have 500,000 that are open that we can’t find people for. We have an encouragement problem in manufacturing and a perception problem.”

Several audience members asked questions at the end of Ward’s presentation, “Salute to Manufacturing.” Mayor Pro Tem David Post asked how immigration factors into manufacturing and the job openings in the field. Ward said a more efficient process to hire immigrants is needed but will not fill all of the openings.

“You’re behind either way,” Ward said. “We need to have something in terms of immigration that is smart and benefits manufacturing where they can get employees quickly.”

Another audience member who works at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College asked how women factor into manufacturing.

“If your workplace is not diverse, you’re missing out on other opinions that can help your business grow,” Ward said. “We feel the same way about manufacturing. We think that women in manufacturing and other folks, minorities, whoever to have a diverse workplace is the best way to grow and prosper.”

Visiting manufacturing plants and encouraging robotics, math and science classes for kids are ways to pique interest in the manufacturing field. Ward said it’s important for students, parents and teachers to see manufacturing for themselves to get a better understanding of what it has to offer.

“The owner of the brewery mentioned when the beer comes across the line it’s great for him,” he said. “All the thought, the work goes right in front of him and he’s standing there saying I wonder where this one will go. This one could be for a bachelor party or this one could be for whatever. He gets to see what he has done at the end of the day and it’s immediate gratification that most of us in the world don’t get to see.”

He said for him seeing his grandfather be able to take apart and put back together machines sparked his interest in manufacturing.

“My interest in manufacturing was due to working with grandfather to do things around the house, because he was one of those guys that came from a generation where you know how things work and you can take apart a lawnmower and put it back together,” Ward said. “I think small things like that to get kids interested in how things work is a great, great way to spur that interest.”

The “Salute to Manufacturing’ presentation gave the audience a taste of what National Manufacturing Day plant tours have to offer on Oct. 5.

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