As snow fell outside the Physical Education Complex at Jamestown Community College on Friday, sparks also flew.
The cutting of a steel-sheet ribbon with a plasma cutter marked the official kickoff of Chautauqua County's ''Dream It, Do It'' campaign. Local elected officials and manufacturing leaders gathered to celebrate the event, for which they were joined by more than 600 area high school students and 29 local manufacturing companies.
Within the warm confines of the JCC gym, the students and manufacturers met for the first of two Industrial Possibilities and Opportunities Days at the college. Representatives from the manufacturers displayed products made in Chautauqua County and provided the students with information on the variety of careers available in local manufacturing.
Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi; Jennifer McNelly, senior vice president of Manufacturing Institute of the National Association of Manufacturers; Todd Tranum, Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce president and CEO; Chautauqua County Greg Edwards; Chris Lanski, president of the Manufacturing Technology Institute; and Lisa Vanstrom, a representative from state Sen. Cathy Young’s office, watch as a steel-sheet ribbon is cut to officially kick off the county’s Dream It, Do It campaign Friday at Jamestown Community College.
P-J photo by Dave Emke
''I asked (some of the students) what they were learning, and one of them said, 'Wow, I didn't know there were so many old companies here in Jamestown,''' said Jennifer McNelly, senior vice president of the Manufacturing Institute of the National Association of Manufacturers. ''What that has told me is that we have a long way to go in helping you as young people understand the opportunities that you can have in careers in local manufacturing.''
Students had a chance to learn about careers in manufacturing from representatives from local businesses including Excelco, Matco, Bush Industries, Cummins Engine, TitanX, SKF Aeroengine, Serta Mattress, Phoenix Metal Fabricating, Cliffstar, Nestle-Purina and many others. Dave Johnson, industrial services manager for the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce, said that the day's weather forced the cancellation of some planned outdoor displays - including a helicopter and a Dodge Viper featuring locally made parts - but that the event as a whole was greatly successful.
''We didn't have any schools that were unable to participate - actually, most of them brought a higher number than we had anticipated,'' he said. ''The kids seem to be getting a lot out of it, and the message I'm giving to them is, 'The people are here for you. Take advantage of them while you're here, and learn about the careers in manufacturing and the products made in Chautauqua County.'''
Dream It Do It is a national campaign started by the National Association of Manufacturers to address the growing shortage of talented and skilled workers in the manufacturing industry. Chautauqua County is one of 17 regions in the United States taking part in the campaign, and the only one in New York state.
County Executive Greg Edwards spoke during the event, telling students that the potential to be successful locally in the manufacturing industry exists for anyone willing to make the effort.
''I want you all to go home tonight and ask your parents if they'd like you to take a job where you can make between $70,000 and $100,000 a year,'' he said. ''There are employers right here in this room who are willing to pay you that much money. They'll give you an opportunity to work on some of the most intricate pieces of metal manufacturing that we have in the nation.''
Chris Lanski, president of the Manufacturing Technology Institute, explained to students the dire need for a new generation of skilled manufacturers in the county.
''There are 11,000 manufacturing jobs in Chautauqua County - 17 percent of all the jobs in the county,'' he said, adding that figure is several percentage points above the national average. ''But in the next five years, almost 1,400 people in the manufacturing work force are going to retire - that's an average of 275 jobs per year.''
One of the goals of the Dream It Do It campaign is not only to address the growing shortage of skilled manufacturers in the nation, but to dispel stereotypes about the industry.
''Many factories today are not dark, dirty and dangerous businesses,'' Ms. McNelly told the students. ''If you look around at the manufacturers here today, you'll clearly see that.''
The JCC Physical Education Complex will be open to the public today from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the second and final day of Industrial Possibilities and Opportunities Days.