Manufacturing firms in Champaign County have added jobs and had a greater economic impact as the economy has begun to recover, local officials said Tuesday.
Both private and government officials have worked more closely together in recent years, and are working together to address issues like workforce development, said Marcia Bailey, economic development coordinator for the Champaign Economic Partnership.
Representatives from several area manufacturing firms met Tuesday morning as part of a manufacturer’s council in which local companies gather with education and government officials and discuss ways to address workforce issues.
Some signs indicate those efforts are already paying off, Bailey said. Information provided by the Dayton Development Coalition shows the industry provided jobs for about 2,900 workers in 2013, and that has grown to about 3,800 jobs this year.
Several manufacturers have worked together to attract younger workers, Bailey said, including hosting displays and a booth at the Champaign County Fair. Drawing younger workers is important because much of the current workforce is aging and there are now too few people in the pipeline to replace them.
“It’s going to take a lot to turn it around,” Bailey said.
The council also recently hosted a manufacturing day, offering tours at Honeywell sites to area high school students. Bailey also pointed to a new program developed by Trial Local Schools and the Ohio Hi-Point Career Center that started this year to teach manufacturing skills to students in the district as early as middle school.
Making sure there are students interested in the field will be critical to fill vacant jobs as manufacturing becomes more advanced, she said.
The industry accounted for $319 million, or about 33 percent of Champaign County’s gross regional product in 2013. That figure represents the goods and services produced in the county. By last year, manufacturing’s impact had risen to $399 million, or 36 percent of the gross regional product.
In the past, the city of Urbana had provided much of the funding for economic development in the county. But several companies and government agencies recently formed the CEP, which includes funding from both private and government entities. That should benefit manufacturing firms because it will provide more resources and coordination for economic development, said Todd Michael, president of the Champaign Economic Partnership.
“It’s a whole different attitude than we’ve had in the past,” Michael said.
Bailey also recognized three local companies that have a long history of providing jobs in the county.
Ultra-Met, which makes parts for the aerospace, defense and biomedical industries, has its 50th anniversary this year. Johnson Welded Products in Urbana, which makes parts for the heavy truck industry, has been there for 35 years. KTH Parts Industries Inc., in St. Paris, will mark 30 years as a parts supplier for Honda.