the north face gotham is building on its manufacturing base
LEOMINSTER Steel Fab Inc. hung a 65,000 pound metal gate outside its manufacturing plant on Crawford Street in Fitchburg on Friday to make sure it would hang straight when it’s installed on the Oologah Dam in Oklahoma.
Workers labored on the gate about six months including a young welder who will earn about $70,000 this year.
It is a complicated piece that was milled within 1,000th of an inch to specifications and must withstand about 2.7 million pounds of pressure so it can roll up and down when adjusting water levels in the dam.
“It’s critical this thing hang perfectly straight,” said Steel Fab President Mark Freeman.
There was a time when the region thought manufacturing jobs were leaving the area, but they are not, said Fitchburg State University President Robert V. Antonucci.
Manufacturing employs more than 14,000 people in North Central Massachusetts and is the third highest paying industry in the region.
The state will need 100,000 new workers in the manufacturing sector over the next 10 years, according to statistics provided by John Harden, an economic development specialist with the North Central Mass Development Corp.
Workers make an average of $400 more a week than their peers in other private sector jobs, said David L. McKeehan, president of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce.
Manufacturing has an estimated $50 million trickle down effect to other industries.
That initiative is asking parents to get involved so they understand how different manufacturing is from past generations, said Antonucci, president of the chamber’s board of directors.
The region’s business community has long understood the importance of manufacturing to the economy but the state is making a bigger push now and the chamber is joining the effort, said McKeehan.
Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray recently announced the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative’s promotional campaign called “AMP It Up!” at the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development to raise awareness of job opportunities in manufacturing.
Leominster alone has about 95 manufacturing facilities, McKeehan said.
There are a host of jobs in the manufacturing industry including production, design, marketing, and technology development, Antonucci said. DuPont as a student operating a bristle machine making toothbrushes and combs on Lancaster Street in Leominster.
“There are all kinds of opportunities,” he said.
Manufacturing can be blue collar or white collar work.
The state is known for its high tech industries such as biotechnology and nanotechnology, but none of it goes anywhere without manufacturing, said chamber president David L. McKeehan.
You hear it all the time that manufacturing has gone overseas but it isn’t true, he said.
“In North Central Massachusetts we make a lot more than many communities across the country,” McKeehan said.
The perception of manufacturing plants as dingy, grimy buildings with poor air quality is wrong, he said.
“There is this really outdated perception of what it is to be in manufacturing,” McKeehan said. “Today manufacturing is about technology, is environmentally friendly and some cool stuff.”
He sited Micron in Fitchburg that makes knee joints for the medical field and Fosta Tek in Leominster that makes protective face shields for the military and police.
The council plans to coordinate tours of manufacturing facilities during evenings and weekends so students and their parents can attend and learn about potential careers and the modern work environment.
People go by retail shops with window displays and see the employees working, but manufacturing facilities are typically concrete and steel buildings passersby can’t see into, so many potential workers don’t understand what it involves, Steel Fab’s Freeman said.
Freeman, who is on the chamber’s board of directors and CEO Manufacturing Roundtable, said they tried to get the program running about 2 1/2 years ago, holding a few mini job fairs at area high schools and providing a couple of tours.