Local manufacturers took center stage on Tuesday at the county Community Center during a “Manufacturers Thank You Breakfast” hosted by the Champaign Economic Partnership (CEP).
The event, attended by state and local officials and representatives from some of the county’s 18 manufacturing companies, was organized by the CEP to “honor and thank the employers for their dedication to Champaign County.”
“Almost everybody that is represented in this room on the manufacturing side has either had growth this past year – whether it be employees, expansion or new investment in equipment – or is getting ready to,” said CEP Economic Development Director Marcia Bailey.
The list of manufacturing companies in the county includes Bundy Baking Solutions, WEIDMANN, KTH, Ultra-met, The Hall Company, Rosewood Machine and Tool Company (RMT), Advanced Technology Products (ATP), Sarica Manufacturing, ORBIS Corporation, Desmond-Stephan Manufacturing, Hughey & Phillips, Parker Trutec, Rittal, Johnson Welded Products (JWP), Robert Rothschild Farm, Colepak, International Fiber Corporation and Honeywell Aerospace.
Bailey remarked that even with an ever-growing list of manufacturers in the county, no one is in stiff competition with the other and, in some cases, local companies are helping one another.
“The uniqueness is still there in that none of you make the same product and some of you are each other’s customer, so we want to continue that,” she said. “We want to continue the diversity that we have and bring more people here.”
Three local manufacturers were highlighted during the event for reaching anniversary milestones in 2015.
Urbana Mayor Bill Bean and Champaign County Commissioners Steve Hess, Bob Corbett and Dave Faulkner jointly presented Ultra-met (50 years in business), JWP (45 years in business) and KTH (30 years in business) with “Keeping Champaign County Strong” proclamations in recognition of their “long-standing dedication and service to the community.”
“We thought it was unique that three companies are celebrating anniversaries all in the same year,” Bailey said.
Representatives from the three companies were also presented with pumpkins from the CEP painted by local artist Vicki Deere-Bunnell. Each pumpkin was decorated with the company’s logo and fall scenes.
Also in attendance was Sandra Brasington, the western Ohio regional liaison for Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s office, who presented each manufacturer with a proclamation signed by Kasich and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor.
“On behalf of the governor’s office, we want to thank you for your investment in Ohio as businesses in manufacturing,” Brasington said. “You guys are the ones making it happen, so we really want to thank each of you.”
Brasington also thanked the county’s manufacturers for “changing lives” for the thousands of workers they employ.
“You are making a difference,” she said. “You guys are doing a great job here in Champaign County, and we want to recognize that.”
Bailey presented data showing job creation is on the rise. In 2013, Champaign County manufacturers employed 2,928 people, and by 2014, the number rose to 3,487. As of September of this year, Bailey said, the number of employees working in the county’s manufacturing sector stands at 3,832.
“We’ve had over 900 jobs created in a three-year time period just here in Champaign County in manufacturing,” she said.
(Pictured above: Champaign County Commissioner Steve Hess presents Lilli Ann Johnson, president of Johnson Welded Products (JWP), with a “Keeping Champaign County Strong” proclamation during Tuesday’s “Manufacturers Thank You Breakfast” hosted by the Champaign Economic Partnership (CEP) at the county Community Center in Urbana. From left are Urbana Mayor Bill Bean, Hess, Johnson and Rachel Lewis, CEP administrative assistant. )
The city of Urbana and Champaign County are asking the private sector to help raise money for economic development efforts in the county.
As part of that, Champaign County plans to quadruple what it currently spends on economic development, County Commissioner Steve Hess said.
Currently Marcia Bailey works 28 hours a week as the economic development director for the county and city.
“It is a full-time business being run part-time,” Urbana Mayor Bill Bean said.
Local leaders now hope to create a partnership between the county, city and private sector called the Champaign Economic Partnership, or CEP.
“Economic development to me is one of the most single important issues, not only in Urbana, but Champaign County,” Bean said.
Bean and Hess presented the partnership proposal on Tuesday to representatives from the banking, education, real estate, manufacturing and health care fields, and leaders from Champaign County townships and villages.
Champaign County cut its budget for economic development in 2011. Hess voted against the cuts in 2011, but said he believes the county will re-dedicate $1 from every conveyance fee now used for the general fund budget back into an economic development fund.
The county was spending $25,000 a year on economic development and believes the new conveyance fees will raise an additional $75,000 a year.
Champaign County said it will give $50,000 to the CEP and save the other $50,000 for special projects.
The city has pledged to give $50,000 as well to the partnership and hopes the private sector will match the government agencies, Bean said.
The CEP is expected to be fully functioning by Jan 1. 2015, Bailey said.
One of the businesses that was a catalyst for the partnership was Pioneer Electric, Bailey said.
Pioneer hosted the presentation and was the business to donate to the CEP, giving $15,000.
“We believe strongly in economic development,” Pioneer Electric CFO Aaron Stallings said.
Pioneer benefits when any new business comes into the county, he said, because it will use the company’s power or their employees will use the electricity.
The money raised by the partnership will go toward hiring staff, boosting Urbana’s web presence and recruiting businesses and employees, Bailey said.
Rick Finkbine, executive vice president of Sarica Manufacturing, said his company spends a lot of time recruiting and educating employees about manufacturing jobs.
He said he hopes the partnership will help with those efforts.
“Manufacturing is a different industry than many people perceive it to be,” Finkbine said. “We spend a lot of time recruiting, talking to people about the new kind of manufacturing, which is much more modern and clean than they may believe.”
Sarica would be interested in being part of the partnership, he said, because more companies in Urbana can benefit everyone.
“We would like to shorten the supply chain. The longer the supply chain the more costly it is. The more inflexible it is. Additional business around us would benefit us on a supply chain,” Finkbine said. “Obviously it would open up opportunities for additional customers also.”