manufacturing

manufacturing
6:26 pm
Mon January 30, 2012

Vice Pres. Joe Biden to return to Grand Rapids to promote Obama agenda

American Seating Company has been based in Grand Rapids for more than a century.
American Seating Company

Biden visited a Grand Rapids Public High School back in October to promote the President’s jobs bill. Biden returns this week, this time he’s expected to talk to workers at a manufacturing plant about the administration’s tax plan that’s supposed to boost American manufacturing.

Biden will visit American Seating Company in Grand Rapids on Wednesday. American Seating Company has been making seats for tour busses, trains, and big stadiums for about 125 years. Dave McLaughlin is Vice President and General Sales Manager of Transportation Products Group at American Seating. He’s been working there for 27 years. He says the company is trying not to view Biden’s visit as simply a political event.

“I’m sure there are people that are looking at it as a political event,” McLaughlin said, “We really need help as a nation in rebuilding our manufacturing infrastructure.”

The company employs 500, mostly unionized workers. Most are in Grand Rapids, but all in the United States. McLaughlin says about 75-percent of the company’s goods and services are sourced from companies based in Michigan, Ohio or Indiana.

“We just like to do things here,” McLaughlin said simply. “Now having said that we clearly are in the minority.” He says labor costs are the biggest challenge in staying in the U.S.

So if labor costs are the challenge, what can the U.S. government help manufacturers out with?

  1. Tax incentives: “Certainly a way of mitigating that fact of life could be through tax breaks of one sort or another,” McLaughlin said.
  2. Strengthening the Buy America content provisions: “They could raise that threshold to the point where it’s more difficult for offshore organizations to meet,” McLaughlin said.
  3. Have local, state, national projects buy American made products: “It seems ridiculous to me to see those dollars go offshore when quite often they don’t get reinvested back into the United States,” McLaughlin said.
Changing Gears
1:01 pm
Tue January 24, 2012

Why Apple products aren't made in America: A view from the Midwest

Apple products - not made in the U.S.A.
user plasticpeople Flickr

Over the weekend, the New York Times ran a must-read story on why Apple products are not made in the U.S.

And, earlier this month, This American Life devoted an hour to a stunning look at work conditions inside Apple’s supplier factories in China.

Not long after TAL’s story ran, Apple released its annual progress report on suppliers in China. For the first time ever, the company issued a list of its suppliers and said it would allow an independent third party to audit its operations.

But there’s one claim in all this reporting that has particular relevance for the Midwest economy.

Read more
Changing Gears
11:05 am
Wed January 4, 2012

What lies ahead for Midwestern manufacturing?

Chicago White Metal Casting is hiring. They're looking for die cast machinists, especially repair men.
Niala Boodhoo Changing Gears

Just before you get to the factory floor of Chicago White Metal Casting, there’s a grainy, mural-sized picture of what the floor used to look like in the 1930s, when the business started by CEO Eric Treiber’s grandfather.

Back then, it was on the second floor of Chicago’s Fulton Street Fish Market.

Today, the family-owned company operates further north of the city, just west of O’Hare International Airport.

Read more
2011
12:00 pm
Thu December 22, 2011

A look back: Michigan Radio's coverage of the economy and housing

Image by John Klein Wilson Michigan Radio

As 2011 comes to an end, we look back at some of the economic and housing stories we covered in the last year. The housing slide slowed in the last year, but Michigan was still near the top of the home foreclosure list. The decrease in home values continued to have grave implications for local governments reliant on property taxes (One caller described the fall in housing prices in his six-word story, "$80,000 to $11,000, Northwest Detroit").

In six words or less, here's how people categorized their housing experiences in Michigan:

And here's a small sampling of Michigan Radio stories about the economy and housing:

Read more
Changing Gears
9:27 am
Wed December 7, 2011

Can technology breathe new life into the Midwest's old iron?

The industrial Midwest might not be the industrial Midwest if it weren’t for the iron-rich regions of northern Minnesota and Michigan. These iron ranges have long supplied domestic steelmakers, depleting the highest quality ore along the way. Now, a plant in Minnesota is testing a process to dramatically upgrade the low-grade ore that remains.

To understand why this matters, keep in mind how steelmaking has changed.  The old recipe for steel calls for iron ore, coke and a blast furnace.  But now, more than half of American steel is made in electric arc furnaces, which use electricity to melt scrap steel into new steel.

You can find those ingredients in your own kitchen or garage.

Read more
Arts/Culture
9:30 am
Thu November 10, 2011

Factories in the neighborhood; remembering Mr. Rogers factory tours

Tom Link, owner of Link Bass and Cello, glues a label into a finished bass violin in his factory.
Sarah Alvarez

Today’s American manufacturing industry is a shadow of what it once was. It’s lost millions of jobs and thousands of factories.

Many of us know what some of those factories looked like in their heyday. Not because we visited the factories ourselves, but because we watched them on T.V., with Mr. Rogers as our tour guide. Mr. Rogers’ factory videos started airing in the early nineteen seventies and ran through the late nineties.

Through these kids watched how all kinds of things in the world around them were made, like construction paper and graham crackers.

These places were full of old looking metal equipment and conveyer belts lit by florescent lights. They were also full of people, workers were busy pumping out things like trumpets and shoes and flashlights. I wanted to know if the factories in some of these video's had survived all the upheaval in manufacturing over the last few decades.

Read more
Auto/Economy
5:13 pm
Mon November 7, 2011

Manufacturing "not dead yet; not at all" in West Michigan

At least 35 companies looking to fill manufacturing positions were at a career fair at Grand Rapids Community College Monday.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

At least 35 West Michigan companies are looking to fill manufacturing jobs. The companies were scouting out new workers at a manufacturing job fair in Grand Rapids Monday.

This is the first time Grand Rapids Community College has held a job fair specifically for manufacturers. Michael Kiss has been with the college for 25 years. He’s heads the school’s Department of Manufacturing and Applied Technology. "There's 35 companies here, but probably another 100 that are looking to hire," Kiss said.

He says they decided to host the fair because he’s been flooded with calls from companies this year that are trying to fill jobs in the manufacturing field.

Isn't manufacturing dead?

It’s not dead yet; not at all,” 40-year old Grand Rapids resident Eric Mallett says about manufacturing.

Read more
Changing Gears
11:49 am
Thu October 13, 2011

Nonprofit company uses science to turn ideas into jobs

Woody Cook, Battelle National Security, next to a pool that is used to test underwater robotic devices.
Niala Boodhoo Changing Gears

(We're having technical problems with the "audio processing" file above. To listen, please click on the second file.)

Steve Job’s death last week has reminded everyone firsthand the notion that everyone has ideas, and very few become actual products.

That’s because ideas need a push. In some cases, a big push from science to become reality.

It sounds obvious, but when we’re talking about actual products, that translate into actual jobs, and actual economic activity, it’s worth exploring.

That’s why I was so interested to learn more about Battelle Memorial Institute.

Innovation can strike in a variety of ways.

Read more
Auto/Economy
5:25 pm
Tue September 20, 2011

Report: Michigan lost 79,800 jobs to China from 2001 to 2010

Map showing the percentage of jobs displaced by trade imbalance with China as a share of state employment.
Economic Policy Institute

A report by the Economic Policy Institute looked at the growing trade deficit between the U.S. and China and its effect on jobs.

The group found the trade deficit with China has been a "prime contributor to the crisis in U.S. manufacturing employment."

From the report:

Between 2001 and 2010, the trade deficit with China eliminated or displaced 2.8 million jobs, 1.9 million (69.2 percent) of which were in manufacturing. The 1.9 million manufacturing jobs eliminated or displaced due to trade with China represents nearly half of all U.S. manufacturing jobs lost or displaced between China’s entry into WTO and 2010.

The report finds that the number of Michigan jobs displaced by the trade deficit with China totaled 79,800. That accounts for 1.75 percent of total employment in the state in that time period.

Despite being a heavy manufacturing state, Michigan was not the hardest hit state by the trade imbalance.

From the report:

Jobs displaced due to growing deficits with China exceeded 2.2% of total employment in the 10 hardest-hit states (i.e., jobs lost or displaced as a share of total state employment): New Hampshire (19,700, 2.84%), California (454,600, 2.74%), Massachusetts (88,600, 2.73%), Oregon (47,900, 2.71%), North Carolina (107,800, 2.61%) Minnesota (70,700, 2.61%), Idaho (17,400, 2.54%), Vermont (7,800, 2.37%), Colorado (55,800, 2.30%), and Rhode Island (11,800, 2.24%).

The report concludes, "the U.S.-China trade relationship needs a fundamental change. Addressing the exchange rate policies and labor standards issues in the Chinese economy are important first steps."

Changing Gears
9:31 am
Wed September 7, 2011

The "Google of manufacturing?" One company shows a possible future

Matt Hlavin stands in front of a rapid prototyping and manufacturing machine. These can produce small batches of plastic products quickly and cheaply. This is the future, he says.
Dan Bobkoff Changing Gears

Depending on who you ask, American manufacturing is either the way out of our bad economy, or it’s dead.

Whatever you think, there’s no denying that manufacturing has changed.

That’s the story of Thogus Products in Avon Lake, Ohio.

This manufacturer has changed so much, its President calls it a 61 year-old startup company.

Read more
Changing Gears
3:20 pm
Tue September 6, 2011

The future of manufacturing, all this month, from Changing Gears

Wisconsin Historical Society

What’s different about our factories? How are things changing in the Midwest, from the way people are trained to what’s being produced?

This month, Changing Gears’ regular Wednesday reports will be devoted to the future of manufacturing.

The days are long gone when all you had to do to get a factory job was know someone. These are not the same places your dad or mom or grandfather worked in. And the expectations of what employers need from you have changed, as well.

We’ll kick the series off tomorrow with a report from Dan Bobkoff. Meanwhile, we’d like to pick your brain.

What kind of factories do you think we’ll be seeing in the Midwest? Which industry will be next to catch hold here?

We’re looking forward to exploring our manufacturing future with you.

Environment
10:00 am
Tue August 9, 2011

Company unveils new wind turbine plant

Jeff Kubina / flickr

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, is in Michigan today. She’s visiting for a ribbon cutting at Ventower Industries in Monroe. It’s a company that will be making towers for wind turbines.

The Monroe facility will serve as Ventower's main U.S. operation.

35 employees will start work this week, and as many as 300 could eventually work there.

Scott Viciana is the company’s vice president. He says the plant is built on the site of a former industrial landfill.  So first, they had to clean up the land.

“We stumbled across less (sic) concerns in the end than we thought potentially we could.”

Ventower got state and federal tax credits to clean up the brownfield site.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson says that makes it a double win for the environment.

"What we see here today is a return to use. A return to use for a site that will preserve green space, but also support a clean energy economy."

Ventower officials say the Monroe site is ideal because it can ship parts by road, rail, and a Great Lakes port.

Economy
3:32 pm
Fri June 24, 2011

Federal government to jumpstart manufacturing in Michigan

Michigan site of partnership to expand manufacturing
Dr_Bob MorgueFile

Michigan is playing a starring role in a new federal initiative designed to spark the creation of new manufacturing jobs as part of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership. The federal government will spend $500 million to jumpstart manufacturing research and development projects.

President Obama says the government played an important role initially in projects that led to the creation of the internet, cell phones, and companies like Google.  He says this investment can do the same for manufacturing.

Read more
Changing Gears
3:17 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

Midwest manufacturing bouncing back

Midwest manufacturers heard good news about U.S. trade at a conference in Chicago.

A record number of exports are helping to shrink the trade deficit, and conference organizers are optimistic about the future of Midwest manufacturing.

Economist Bill Strauss, with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, likes to use a tennis ball as an analogy to explain what’s going on in manufacturing.

"The sectors that fall the hardest tend to bounce back the strongest," said Strauss. "And we are definitely seeing that with regard to manufacturing where it was automotive and it was primary metals that fell the most during the downturn and they are coming back the strongest at this point."

This morning, Strauss and others told the  Chicago Council on Global Affairs they’re optimistic. They point to data like a 7 percent increase in manufacturing over the past 22 months.

Now for the bad news.

That doesn’t translate into more jobs, because manufacturers have gotten better at producing more with less people.

Auto/Economy
2:02 pm
Fri April 22, 2011

Stabenow says manufacturing and agriculture will revitalize Michigan economy

Stabenow says Michigan can still benefit from the auto industry
Office of Senator Stabenow

Michigan U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow says the future of the Michigan economy depends on a strong auto and manufacturing base, as well as agriculture:

“You can’t have an economy in this country unless you make things and grow things. And the fundamental part in making things really is the auto industry and manufacturing. ”

Read more
Environment
11:12 am
Thu April 21, 2011

Business owners, DOE officials meet for clean energy manufacturing workshop

Business owners and politicians are trying to figure out how to make Michigan a manufacturing hub for things like advanced batteries, wind turbines, and solar panels.

They’re gathering at the Clean Energy Manufacturing Workshop in Ann Arbor today and tomorrow. The workshop is being put on by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy along with Ann Arbor SPARK.

Steven Busch will be paying pretty close attention.

He’s with Energetx Composites Company in Holland. It’s a spin-off company of Tiara Yacht. Before the economy went south, their main business was building high end yachts. Now, they make blades for wind turbines.

“The basic manufacturing process is very similar. We have the expertise on how to handle large, big, bulky things.”

He says they’re planning to stay in Michigan.

“Michigan offers the best engineering and manufacturing skill set probably in the world. Geographically, the Great Lakes are a great opportunity as a place to be able to ship products over the water.”

Busch says he’d like to see more training programs at universities and community colleges – and more retraining programs for former auto workers who want to get into the business.

Auto/Economy
12:01 pm
Tue March 22, 2011

Wyoming approves plans to demolish huge former GM Stamping Plant

Former GM Stamping Plant in Wyoming, MI.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

A 2-million-square-foot former General Motors stamping plant in the Grand Rapids suburb of Wyoming will be demolished this year. Monday night Wyoming’s city council approved plans to destroy the 75-year-old building and redevelop the site.

Read more
Auto/Economy
9:29 am
Wed March 16, 2011

Howell manufacturing plant to stop production

Marelco Power Systems, Inc. told the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus that is will stop production at its plant in Howell.

The company makes transformers, inductors, and control systems, among other things, for the auto companies and other manufacturers.

From the Associated Press:

Read more
Business
3:40 pm
Wed March 9, 2011

Whirlpool CEO: US is the place to invest

Whirlpool CEO Jeff Fettig
whirlpoolcorp.com

The head of Michigan-based Whirlpool says the United States is a smart place for the appliance giant to invest.

The company announced last year that it planned to sink $1 billion into its United States operations over the next four years. CEO Jeff Fettig says since then, he’s fielded lots of questions about why and how the company planned to do that.

Read more
Economy
6:11 pm
Thu February 10, 2011

Manufacturers need more skilled workers

Manufacturing jobs are growing, but finding skilled labor can be a challenge (manufacturing t-shirts at American Apparel in LA).
Rich Allosi Flickr

The national economy added 49,000 manufacturing jobs in January. That’s more new jobs than in health care, retail or any other major sector of the economy.

It’s good news for the Midwest, where thousands of manufacturing workers are expected to be hired over the next few years.

The number of students enrolled in manufacturing training and engineering courses is on the rise at two year colleges. But some employers say they still have a hard time finding qualified candidates.

Michigan Radio’s Changing Gears project is looking at the economic future of the Midwest.

Michelle Kanu filed this report from Cleveland:

Read more

Pages