With the Northwest PA What’s So Cool About Manufacturing video competition in the history books, we thought we would share a special highlight from the awards gala last Thursday. Erie County Executive, Kathy Dahlkemper, provided the keynote as she addressed the students and manufacturers who participated in the program, and the audience at large. Below are her remarks, reflecting on manufacturing in Erie County.

What’s So Cool About Manufacturing – Keynote Address- as presented by Erie County Executive, Kathy Dahlkemper

“Thank you all for inviting me to be part of your celebration of manufacturing in Erie County! And, thank you to our manufacturers and schools for drawing attention to this important industry. I have to commend the students and teachers from all 12 teams:

  • Corry Area Middle School
  • East/Wilson Middle Schools
  • Fairview Middle School
  • Fort LeBoeuf Middle School
  • Harbor Creek Junior High
  • Iroquois Junior High
  • North East Middle School
  • Saint Jude School
  • Walnut Creek Middle School
  • Westlake Middle School
  • RB Wiley Charter School
  • And JS Wilson Middle School

I am so impressed by the work you put into these videos. They were informative, creative- and above all- a perfect showcase for the diverse products we make here in Erie County. You showed us…plastics, metal, and glass; tiny parts and giant furnaces; items that we see in our homes, use in our cars, and eat at the ballpark.

You might be aware that in 2017, I embarked on a yearlong project called 50 in 50. I visited 50 businesses in 50 weeks. So, except for the first week of the year and the last week of the year, I was at a different business every week. Now, not every one of those was a manufacturer- I tried to cover many business sectors. But about half of them were, and some of them were the very manufacturers featured in your videos. We saw the giant rings being shaped at McInnes Rolled Rings, and we saw plastics parts coming off the lines at Port Erie Plastics.

In our 50 in 50 visits, we saw so many products being made here in Erie County: firehoses; wooden doors; tiny turned parts; giant truck trailers; powerful magnets; decorative building materials; and even frozen pizza. And through it all, we discovered several important factors about manufacturing in Erie County.

First, manufacturing in Erie County is going strong. Some big company names might have been dominating the headlines lately, but what I saw were manufacturers that were quietly adding jobs. It might be 2, or it might be 20. Second, today’s manufacturing is the result of our county’s entrepreneurial spirit. Many of these companies were built on a big idea. And, some of those ideas changed industries, created communities, and employed families.

Speaking of families, that’s another trend. Many of the manufacturers in Erie County are family businesses, some generations old. Actually, that’s something else I heard in your videos – the idea that working for some of these companies feels like family.

What else did my 50 in 50 project teach us about manufacturing in Erie County? We learned that many employers find Erie County to be a welcoming place for manufacturing. They see advantages in our quality of life- we can ski or swim- depending on the season. That makes an attractive place for employees and their families.

They see advantages in our location. We have access to ports, rails, and highways, which help in moving those products. And they also see advantages in our network of manufacturers- the support system that includes organizations like the NWIRC- but also includes the ability to get a part for your product made just down the road or a few towns away.

But there are challenges that our manufacturers face. And this is where all of you, the students, come in. Many of the manufacturers that I visited are in need of workers- people ready and eager to learn the skills to be the next generation of makers and builders. I’m encouraged to see the interest you’ve taken in our local manufacturing. And, I hope that at least some of you consider manufacturing as a potential career path.

You’ve heard it from people on the job now- there’s something cool about manufacturing! They said it’s cool to be doing something different every day. It’s cool to see your efforts pay off in a physical product at the end of the day. It’s cool to be like a detective, solving problems. It’s cool to use science to make better products. And, it’s cool to use your creativity to make anything your heart desires.

What I’ve discovered, both through your videos and my own 50 in 50 project, is that Erie County can make anything…from the tiniest plastic part to the biggest piece of equipment…and everything in between. We can make anything the world can image, right here in Erie County.

And to me, that’s the coolest thing!”