As I contemplate this issue of Insight on Manufacturing, it occurs to me that the need for talent touches nearly every story within these pages. I have no doubt it’s the issue that’s at the top of the list of concerns for nearly every manufacturing leader.
Filling rural manufacturing positions can present an extra layer of challenge to an already-difficult problem. Rural manufacturers draw from a smaller pool of talent resources, and it can take some persuading to get people — especially younger folks — to consider living in small towns, even though they offer their share of benefits.
Nikki Kallio’s cover story looks at how rural manufacturers are rising to the recruitment and retention challenge. Their efforts are innovative and inspiring. J&R Machine in Shawano is investing in the next generation and has given $200,000 to technology education programs at Shawano and Bonduel high schools. Waupaca Foundry is making similar investments as well and adding automation solutions to make people’s jobs easier and more comfortable. In addition to its own K-12 education support, Ariens Co. in Brillion is in the midst of a massive and ambitious expansion that’s poised to not only transform the company but also the community. Learn more on page 10.
While the NEW Manufacturing Alliance’s 10th annual Manufacturing Vitality Index shows strong optimism for 2020, one challenge tempers the positivity. You guessed it: talent. At a press conference announcing the results, each of the speakers representing companies including Georgia-Pacific, Alliance Laundry Systems and Oshkosh Corp. expressed concern about finding enough talent. With a decade of data now amassed, it’s interesting to look at what’s changed — and what hasn’t — over the past 10 years. Read more about the findings in my feature story on page 15.
The need for engineering talent is at the heart of the recently opened STEM Innovation Center on the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay campus. Several stakeholders united to make the state-of-the-art facility a reality. It represents a huge victory — one of many in the region — in the quest to educate, and keep, more engineers in Northeast Wisconsin. The center is something to behold, and if you haven’t seen it, I recommend going and checking it out. It’s open to the community. Learn all about the center in my story on page 18.
The new year we’ve embarked on is sure to bring change, opportunity and uncertainty, including the November presidential election. I wish you the best and look forward to continuing to tell your stories in the coming months. Don’t forget — my inbox is always open. Wishing you a happy and prosperous 2020!