by Bob Zaruta, President/CEO, NWIRC

A new partnership is brewing in northwestern Pennsylvania. The Northwest Industrial Resource Center (NWIRC) was recently asked to assist manufacturers in launching a Next Generation Sector Partnership in eight counties of NW PA by serving as the convener. You may be wondering, “why a new group or initiative for manufacturing, and why now?”- when there are numerous workforce boards, economic development agencies, and other organizations and partnerships in the region already focusing on manufacturing.

Next Gen is not an initiative. It’s a way for manufacturing leaders in the region to come together and work on common priorities. These priorities may not always be workforce-related. In my travels I hear from companies about supply chain, infrastructure, regulatory, and other issues that are frequent concerns in manufacturing. The Next Gen partnerships that are working across the country have also demonstrated successes in focusing on a variety of topics like these. Agendas are based on industry-determined priorities, not necessarily geared to specific programs available or already in motion. Manufacturing leaders champion the priorities they identify and look to community resources to respond. So partners, such as workforce development, economic development, education, service organizations, and other groups, work together to provide current resources and program solutions to get the work done, or collaborate to develop new ones, if needed. Since Next Gen Sector Partnerships are organized around the topic that interests business leaders most—’what it takes to ensure that their company thrives’—the work is more sustainable over time.

Several manufacturers in the region are the face of a Next Gen Sector Partnership launch meeting invitation recently sent to companies across the eight counties, they include: Greg Wasko, Vice-President of Starn Tool and Manufacturing; Ashleigh Walters, President of Onex Inc; Don Smith, Operations Director of Franklin Industries; and Mike Walton, CEO of Jamestown Coating Technologies. To borrow an abstract from their invitation, “Across Northwest Pennsylvania there are pockets of success in working together to address common issues. We want to take this work to the next level by forming a regional, business-led partnership that will bring manufacturers together to tackle the priorities that matter most in making our industry stronger.”

NWIRC has been asked to distribute their invitation, but also pass along information about the launch meeting via this article, because it’s possible that companies were missed or perhaps the invitation overlooked. The Next Gen launch meeting will be held on November 6th from 9:00am-11:00am at Honeywell, 1345 15th Street Franklin, PA. This is an invitation directed to manufacturing company owners, presidents, and executive decision-makers in the region. The Northwest PA area includes: Erie, Warren, Crawford, Venango, Mercer, Lawrence, Clarion, and Forest Counties. Please contact me directly if you are a manufacturing leader who would like to participate at