Sturgeon Bay and shipbuilding are synonymous, so it is easy to forget that manufacturing doesn’t stop at the shipyards in the county seat.
To remind everyone of that, the Door County Economic Development Corporation (DCEDC) and the Door County Manufacturers Association present Manufacturing Days on Oct. 20-21 to showcase not only the broad range of enterprises taking place daily in the Sturgeon Bay Industrial Park, but also to highlight the need for skilled employees for these manufacturers.
“Our manufacturers are just slammed with a shortage of workers,” said DCEDC Executive Director Caleb Frostman. “We’re tying to create the same kind of buzz that the shipyard tours create, and provide equal exposure to career paths in manufacturing, and, also by virtue of that, try to create equal consideration.”
Approximately 270 students from the four mainland high schools will tour nine businesses in the industrial complex Oct. 20: Hatco Corporation, Pro Products, Therma-Tron-X, Cadence, N.E.W. Industries, Key Industrial Plastics, Wulf Brothers, Hi-Tec and Sunshine House.
The next day, Saturday, Oct. 21, the public is invited to tour eight businesses (Pro Products’ facility will not be available that day) from 9 am to noon. Tours will take place at each business roughly every half hour. In addition, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College will have its ElectroMechanical Mobile Lab stationed for the public to view in the Sunshine House parking lot and there will be a brat fry there from 11 am to 1 pm.
Frostman thinks students and the larger community will be amazed to learn what these businesses are doing, who their markets are and that there are interesting, challenging career opportunities in the bustling manufacturing hub.
“I don’t think anyone is trying dissuade anyone from pursuing a career somewhere else,” he said, “but we want to make sure the kids and the greater community are aware of the opportunities here.”
Frostman said the event was created to build awareness that there are challenging, living-wage jobs available in manufacturing in Door County, “and also to some extent to dispel some of the dark, dirty and dangerous images of manufacturing that people still have stuck in their heads.”
More than anything, Frostman is happy to bring exposure to the industrial park and its industrious residents.
“A lot of folks drive right by and never even know this is here. They don’t know who’s back there or what they do, so we’re happy to help tell that story,” he said. “These business are largely unheralded, and they are extremely busy, and private. They don’t toot their own horn. In a tactful way, we’re trying to do that for them, to say, hey, you guys do some great things and we want to let the community know. They’re so preoccupied with identifying new clients and taking care of current clients and just running good businesses, they need us to some extent to tell their stories. If we can help bring some attention to the good works they’re doing and let folks know what’s going on there, that’s a piece of what we can do for them.”
Frostman also expects people who take the plant tours to be surprised and impressed by what he calls “the new reality of manufacturing in 2017.”
“From 3-D printers, to automation, to clean, well-lit, state-of-the-art facilities, manufacturing careers offer the intellectual rigor today’s young people demand in a profession, as well as the opportunity for a good living,” he said. “We are very grateful to have so many businesses participate in this first year and hope to expand the event in future years.”