Wednesday, March 6, 2013 11:16 PM EST
By SCOTT WHIPPLE
HARTFORD — Area manufacturers told state legislators that there is consensus that manufacturing as a profession has changed, that it’s more respectable, clean and requires more sophisticated skills during a roundtable discussion at Wednesday’s Connecticut Business Day at the state Capitol.
The session, held during the annual event sponsored by the Connecticut Business & Industry Association and the Connecticut Association of Chambers of Commerce Executives, centered mainly on state-sponsored training programs and the need to change a negative perception of manufacturing.
Michael Mangiafico II, vice president of New Britain-based Peter Paul Electronics, said his company recently negotiated a large loan and grant from the state to modernize its equipment.
Peter Paul manufactures quality, high-performance solenoid valves.
“We’re now coming out with new products so we can capitalize on where technology is headed,” he said.
Cindy Scoville, of the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce, cited a need among spring companies in Bristol to get positive news out about manufacturing.
“Manufacturing is a great career opportunity,” she said, and added that NESMA (New England Spring and Metal Stamping Association) has adopted the Bristol Technical School System. “But, with no marketing dollars to entice young people to attend the school, it’s a problem. However, our chamber is trying to help them out.”
Rick Mullins, executive assistant to President Jack Miller of Central Connecticut State University and managing director of CCSU’s Institute of Technology & Business Development, had positive comments for the governor’s Small Business Express program. (Last fall, the General Assembly expanded the definition of “small business” from 50 to 100 employees, making more businesses eligible for state-funded business loans and grants.)
“The program provided opportunities for small business in an aggressive and meaningful way,” said Mullins. “There’s still work to be done. We’re seeing about a thousand jobs a month, but we need to be closer to two thousand to meet the anticipated recovery from the recession. Despite the issues of fiscal cliff and the uncertainty of health care, university students seem to be getting more interviews with manufacturers. I think with modest growth, the state’s economy is working its way back.”
Mullins added that more money needs to be invested in customized training programs.
“For example, we’re working closely with CL&P and UI with the PRIME program; it helps companies improve their productivity. If we get a company’s kilowatt hours down below 500 this will open the door to many smaller companies.” (PRIME stands for Process Re-engineering for Increased Manufacturing Efficiency.)
State Rep. Betty Boukus, D-Plainville, told manufacturers not to be intimidated by “all these programs with acronyms. Just call the Department of Economic and Community Development. They’re quick to respond. No company is too small to ask for help.”
Mary Lee Weber of Design Digital, Glastonbury, said she is developing a television show that will reveal the innovative side of manufacturing.
“I want to educate the public on the real nature of manufacturing jobs,” she said.
Scott Whipple can be reached at (860) 225-4601, ext. 319, or firstname.lastname@example.org.