Factories are not what they used to be. From the moment my Leadership Shelby class and I stepped into Nifco, till we left Superb Industrial Powder Coating, and during every tour in between, this was the realization we experienced. Whatever expectation we held, each industry in turn challenged our perceptions, broadened our understanding, and encouraged us to seek solutions to problems that, prior to our October 25 Industry Day tour, we didn’t know existed.
We discovered the many plastic parts in our vehicles are built at Nifco. Robots run 24 hours a day, nearly 365 days a year, producing pieces. Although robots make the parts, we learned that for every robot there were people who designed it, a person who made sure the machine ran correctly, and a tooling department to keep it running. The parts then need to be inspected, packaged, and sent off to be built into vehicles. The plastic parts in our vehicles that we take for granted are there because hardworking, creative, revolutionary people are utilizing their talents in this industry.
So it was throughout our day. The boxes the American Red Cross uses to transport blood for transfusions that saves lives are insulated at Sonoco Thermosafe. Thanks to the adventure of a flat tire the week before our tour, I paid special attention once I noticed the foam that holds car jacks was also built at Sonoco. Pegasus Industries solves problems for businesses around the world. Voestalpine Roll Forming Corporation shapes metal for use in the construction of airplanes. Superb IPC paints our electric meters. These businesses represent only a few of the 70+ industries in our county. Shelby Countians are impacting the Shelby County economy, and the world’s with the products they build.
It is not only large-scale manufacturers that make a difference, but also small businesses, such as those that line Main Street, Shelbyville. From our time spent with Kassie at Sixth and Main Coffeehouse, to speaking with Amy Babb of Woodworking Maniak, to visiting Robert Biagi at Biagi’s Appliances, it was apparent that small businesses are vital to our community. When we shop local, a larger percentage of the profit stays in the local economy, compared to big box stores and chain restaurants.
In the coming years, the industry sector expects numerous jobs to become available, yet less than half are projected to be filled. Standing in this gap is Shelley Goodwin, the Workforce Development Coordinator, a position unique in the state of Kentucky. She connects high school students to internships that gives students amazing opportunities to gain real workforce skills, but also helps businesses develop new, fresh ideas. Often, these positions become the interns’ gateway to the career of their dreams.
Industry Day was enlightening. Seeing Shelby County manufacture products we use daily and deepening our knowledge of small businesses was something I’ll never forget. Knowing where we buy products matters, and encouraging career opportunities in these fields, can make our community a better place.
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