Caleb Frostman: Why So Serious About Manufacturing?

As our very first Manufacturing Days event rapidly approaches, I want to share with you, the reader, the many reasons we are eager to host students and the public at businesses in the Sturgeon Bay Industrial Park on Friday, Oct. 20, and Saturday, Oct. 21, respectively.

First and foremost, there’s an incredible opportunity in the manufacturing industry right now. So often successful investment – whether it’s capital, time or effort that is invested – hinges upon capitalizing on anticipated need for a product, service or skill set, and a careful or lucky sense of timing.

In our region, there are few industries with greater demand for quality professionals than in manufacturing. According to just a handful of the manufacturers participating in this year’s event, they have no less than 40 full-time openings right now, ranging from engineers to CNC machinists to tool and die makers.

Not only is there great demand for employees in the Door County manufacturing sector, which drives up wages for those with the applicable skills, but Wisconsin is a national leader in manufacturing, with 9,500 manufacturing companies within our state and more than 460,000 Wisconsinites employed by those manufacturers, the latter of which represents the second highest concentration of manufacturing jobs of any state. Thus, it seems economically prudent to build on our state’s strengths and embrace manufacturing as a large part of our economic identity.

Lest anyone think that DCEDC has placed disproportionate focus on, or are trying to steer folks toward, manufacturing over other careers, please remember that I’m the genius who advocated (in this periodical) incurring student debt to ride unicorns over rainbows if it’s what you really wanted in a career.

More practically, I can state with gratitude that the Letters and Science portion of my college education is an integral thread of my life, a significant piece of my identity, and a large reason for any (albeit limited) professional successes I’ve had in my adult working life. Considering only objective, empirical evidence in order to draw conclusions was learned through the application of the scientific method taught in chemistry. I would not have been able to successfully convince extremely conservative credit officers to lend hundreds of millions of dollars for speculative real estate projects without having learned the relationship between risk and reward in economics, as well as the mechanics and nuances of the English language and the importance of a strong thesis as taught to me through abundant red pen marks on countless college papers.

Similarly, in my non-professional life, forming political stances has been aided by applying the skills learned in philosophy of picking a side based on the validity of the argument(s), not the charisma of its arguer or the volume of its delivery; reading Dostoevsky and Tolstoy gave me a greater appreciation for the range of human emotions, as well as occasional empathy for the perceived villain; and studying the urgings for conservation and preservation between Gifford Pinchot and John Muir, respectively, helped me understand that it is in fact possible for parties who wish for different outcomes to be simultaneously correct.

I can also tell you that a significant portion of any inferiority complex I might have is related to my inability to fix anything beyond replacing a lightbulb. Any time something needs to be built or repaired, I feel like Chris Farley’s character in Tommy Boy (and not just due to my stature and wardrobe, thank you very much), anxiously standing with my hands on my hips, randomly pointing at various pieces, and mumbling something like his “I was just checking the specs… on the end line… for the… rotary girder…,” before shaking my head in embarrassment and reaching for my two favorite, most reliable tools to get something fixed – my cell phone and my checkbook.

Whether it was expressed consciously or subconsciously, shop classes and subsequent manufacturing careers were for “those kids” when I was in high school. Whether it was ever said out loud, it was implied that there wasn’t a professional opportunity worth pursuing with those skills. They were careers of last resort. And those insidious sentiments couldn’t have been more wrong.

Continuing on last month’s theme of dispelling stubborn myths, for generations manufacturing facilities were portrayed as dark, dirty and dangerous. Taking one step into Cadence’s facility and realizing its cleanliness could pass for hospital grade (it actually might, since they manufacture many medical products), appreciating the incredible tolerances that NEW Industries’ and Pro Products’ CNC machinists can program, or learning the level of sophistication of the wastewater treatment systems designed by Therma-Tron-X, those decades-old perceptions will be shaken quickly and thoroughly upon entering these companies and interacting with their professionals, many of whom hold advanced degrees and are thought leaders in challenging, technical industries.

It is the intent of Manufacturing Days to introduce our community and our students to career opportunities that are in high demand today. Through the diverse work-based learning opportunities provided by our Business & Education Partnership, we aim to provide equal exposure to all in-demand industries (education, manufacturing, finance, health care, etc.), which we hope will result in equal career consideration.

Please consider this your personal invitation to join us at the Sturgeon Bay Industrial Park on a gorgeous fall morning. The seven businesses that will be open to the public on Saturday, Oct. 21, from 9 am to noon are:  Cadence, Hatco, Hi Tec Fabrication, Key Industrial Plastics, NEW Industries, Sunshine House and Therma-Tron-X.

Should you work up an appetite learning about 3-D printing, CNC machining, or medical device manufacturing, Sunshine House will have a brat fry in their lot from 11 am to 1 pm. As an additional educational opportunity, NWTC will have its ElectroMechanical mobile lab in the Sunshine House lot for the duration of the event. DCEDC will have an informational tent set up at the corner of E. Walnut Street and Neenah Avenue to answer any questions or guide you to any particular business you’d like to tour. The event is free and one we hope to repeat for many Octobers to come. See you then and there!

Related Organizations

Article Comments