Jonathan Cooper: Celebrating National Manufacturing Day in Bennington County

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Bennington County is full of surprises, and it turns out that some of the biggest surprises are in our manufacturing sector. To put it bluntly, our region's manufacturing scene is surprisingly large, pays surprisingly well, competes in a surprisingly modern and global landscape, and has a surprising amount of career opportunities!

For example, maybe you would be surprised to learn that more than 13 percent of the jobs in Bennington County are in manufacturing, accounting for nearly one out of every seven jobs in the region. Maybe you'd be surprised to learn that the average wage for a manufacturing job in Bennington County was $49,456 in 2018, or $6,500 more than the average full-time job. Maybe you'd be surprised to learn that our manufacturers rely on a blend of multimillion-dollar machines, cutting-edge 3-D printers and CNC technologies, and homegrown, patents to reach a worldwide client list that includes NASA, Rolls-Royce, Harvard University, General Motors, the Air Force, and the Navy, among many others. Maybe you'd be surprised to learn that you can find Bennington County-made products in helicopters, hearing aids, and Hollywood. Maybe you'd be surprised to learn that our manufacturers are part of a global network of teams making things and solving problems, and that the skills you develop in our classrooms and on our shop floors can take you to cities across the country and around the world. Maybe you'd also be surprised to learn that you can start tomorrow!

As the economic development organization for Southwestern Vermont, the Bennington County Industrial Corporation (BCIC) is proud to kick off this year's celebration of National Manufacturing Day. If this is the first you've heard of it, Manufacturing Day is an opportunity for businesses and service providers nationwide to celebrate a major component of the American economy, and to open their doors to the public to show how the industry is adapting to new circumstances in order to thrive.

This year the celebration is going to go on a little longer than one day. Three manufacturers and two service providers will open their doors to the public, with dates and locations at the bottom of this article. Make time to visit if you can! And thanks to the staff at the Banner, you'll be hearing from manufacturers around the region in these pages over the next week. K&E Plastics, Abacus Automation, NSK Steering Systems, Kaman Composites, and Mack Molding will share some exciting news and details about careers, and we hope you'll check it out. Taken together, these five shops employ nearly 900 people, and they're looking to grow!

Every year, our manufacturers review resumes from college students, young professionals, and industry lifers across the country. Whether they're coming from Pennsylvania, Michigan, Utah, or parts beyond, what they want a great job opportunity in a great place to live. We're proud to say that they can find it here.

If you'd like to see for yourself how manufacturing looks in Bennington County in 2019, here's three dates to put on your calendar:

Monday, October 7 at 1:00 PM: a plant tour at Abacus Automation on Shields Drive in Bennington.

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Tuesday, October 8 at 2:30 PM: a plant tour at K&E Plastics on Morse Road in Bennington.

Thursday, October 10 from 1:00-4:00 PM: an open house at NSK Steering Systems on Shields Drive in Bennington.

If you'd like to take advantage of local resources to move your career or education forward, or if you'd like to learn more about how your son, daughter, or loved one can do the same, please visit either or both of the following events:

Monday, October 7 from 9:00-11:00 AM: an open house at the Vermont Department of Labor on Veterans Memorial Drive in Bennington.

Wednesday, October 9 from 3:30-4:30 PM: an open house at the Career Development Center on Park Street in Bennington.

We expect that this week's events will spark some interest around the many exciting ways Bennington County's manufacturers continue to do cool things. You'll be hearing from some of the bigger names in the coming days, but in closing we'd like to encourage some of our smaller shops to take pride in this week as well. You can find handmade microphones, custom light fixtures, top-of-the-line snowshoes, precision woodworking tools (and wooden hats!), aquatic pet feeders, and many more passion projects in our towns, reaching customers near and far. Whether you're operating in a 75,000 square foot facility with three-phase power and 5-ton cranes, or leaning over a table in a garage with a soldering gun, National Manufacturing Day is about celebrating the creativity, the tenacity, and the joy of making.

Jonathan Cooper is an economic development specialist with Bennington County Industrial Corporation.


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