It’s time to give manufacturers the respect they deserve
Mention the word “manufacturing” to most Americans, and the random image that comes immediately to mind is one of smokestacks, sweat-soaked and irreversibly soiled uniforms, lousy pay, and hours unfit for beasts of burden.
That would all be true if referring to the first two-thirds of the 20th century. I trust that the aforementioned time-worn description befitting of 19th century workhouses is still true for some manufacturers throughout the United States, but it does not accurately or justly characterize manufacturing, present and future – not by a shuttle shot to Mars.
According to the most recent statistics from the Nevada Department of Employment, Training, & Rehabilitation, as of June 2007 Carson City had 138 manufacturers. Northern Nevada (inclusive of Carson City, Churchill, Douglas, Lyon, Storey, and Washoe counties) had 896 manufacturers. But neither Carson City nor Northern Nevada has been properly educated on the vital importance of manufacturers to our city and state commerce. Most critically, the people of our area do not push that importance on to our youth – our own sons and daughters – which means that manufacturing as a worthy profession is being fatally short-changed.
Of the reported 32,428 total employees in Carson City, manufacturing comprises 2,442, or 9.7 percent, of those employees, which falls just below the national average of around 10 percent. In Northern Nevada, 22,819 manufacturing employees make up 7.7 percent of the total 297,572 employees among the six counties represented in that mix. Big numbers. For now. And I’ll underline the words “for now.”
Americans, for the most part, find prestige in titles and select professions. We invest a bank’s vault of belief in the myth that money follows title and success follows the trade name of a business. When parents talk about sons and daughters, we generally emphasize the school they attend or the professional titles we seem to carry on their behalf. If someone is introduced at a gathering as a doctor, the faces of others seem to exclaim “Ooo!” and “Ah!,” even if their mouths do not. When another person is introduced in that same gathering as a manufacturer, people immediately start looking for that doctor who was just introduced beforehand. It’s part of the American conditioning process. “Hey Joe, haven’t seen you in a while. Well, my son Seymore is going to Yale! Isn’t that just marvelous?! Oh, by the way, how’s your son doing at the community college?”
You and I know that “Seymore” can turn out to be a lobotomy patient regardless of his turn at Yale, and that the student at the community college can become an inventor for tomorrow. It’s not the school. It’s not the title. It’s the person. But manufacturing as a career is sinfully overlooked by the general public. Why? Because few people understand it. How can someone support what they don’t understand (Wow! As far as the world of politics is concerned, I could really have fun with that last comment I just made. But not right now).
In April 2007, Bob McCann of Leadership Transition Coaching and David Steiger of Management Assistance Partnership came up with the idea to assemble a small group of local manufacturers to take part in an informal series of monthly meetings intended to bring their ideas and common interests together in network solidarity. Just last week, that same group of very intelligent and highly professional manufacturers decided to give themselves a name: Carson Area Manufacturers’ Forum. I am proud and honored to say that I have been invited as a member of that group.
Carson City should pay attention. So should Northern Nevada. Those manufacturing professionals are serious about their business, and are seriously dedicated to manufacturing as a veritable future for livelihood in Nevada. We should all be dedicated to them and what they represent. We need to. Years from now, and not too distant at that, mining and gaming as primary movers of our state economy may be as dry as the Carson River after a two-year drought. On the other hand, if cities in Nevada begin to show the same or greater respect to manufacturers as granted (rightfully so) to the gaming industry and mining, then casino towns, too, will gain the insurance that a solid and ever-growing base of manufacturing can promise and deliver.
Next week’s column will feature a continuation of the importance of manufacturing to our local area and state, and why it is so crucial that our youth (and their parents) understand why a career in manufacturing is far more engaging and lucrative than one may ever imagine.
• John DiMambro is publisher of the Appeal. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.