October holds the designation among other things as "Manufacturing Month.”
It's a time for communities to recognize businesses that produce goods and to celebrate their contribution to the area's economy with their jobs and trade. Assistance with retention and potential expansion efforts of these types of businesses is an objective of NGage.
We want to have an understanding of the needs of manufacturers and other key employers in our county so we can be a resource as they look to grow and develop.
In the few months that I’ve been on board as executive director, I’ve tried to make it a point to get out and about and meet the business owners and managers. Since several of the manufacturers in the area are prime employers, meeting those business leaders has been a focus of mine.
The recent announcement of the Store Kraft Manufacturing closure was unwelcome news. This company employed hundreds during its 94 year history in Beatrice. As most businesses experience highs and lows and as industry trends change, we know sometimes that plant closings or massive re-tooling projects are inevitable. It is the people that worked at Store Kraft and their families that are most affected.
It’s a hit to the community economy. The Nebraska Department of Labor /Workforce Development office in Beatrice has played a key role in helping the employees find new opportunities.
After the closure, I was invited to speak to the Store Kraft employees at a recent meeting hosted by the NE Department of Labor. In some cases, employees from there may have an interest in starting their own business ventures. NGage can be a resource and help connect individuals to additional business development assistance.
I explained to the workers that an available workforce and especially one that is dedicated and loyal as they were, is an asset in a community I understand that the Store Kraft employees worked many years together, developed close relationships and were like family. It would be ideal to attract another large employer here that could utilize their primary skill sets and keep this workforce together as much as possible.
Related to that, NGage sent a special message to over 350 business contacts across the country, letting them know that we have dislocated workers currently and we have available commercial space.
On the day that Store Kraft announced its closing I had a meeting scheduled with a small manufacturing company to discuss assistance in helping them expand and add employees over time.
Now that is the kind of news that we want. It is important to pay attention to and value the companies that are here. Even with the closure of Husqvarna a few years ago, and now Store Kraft, net new jobs from businesses that have started and grown here is a positive number over the last four years.
The success of manufacturing companies is driven by innovation and the use of new technologies is helping to make American manufacturing globally competitive. We are fortunate in this area to have some solid companies here. NGage is here to do what it can to assist them in staying strong.