CBIA BizCast: Supporting Manufacturing Success
TD Bank commercial market president Michael LaBella has spent his career working to help businesses, particularly manufacturers, in Connecticut succeed.
“The bank’s been a tremendous supporter of all industries, but especially manufacturing, because it’s so key to our economy,” LaBella said.
TD Bank is sponsoring CBIA’s Made in Connecticut 2023 Manufacturing Summit Oct. 11 at the Aqua Turf in Plantsville.
Speakers and panelists will highlight success stories and share best practices for navigating challenges and leveraging opportunities for manufacturers.
The summit will also include the release of the 2023 Connecticut Manufacturing Report.
“The good news about the state is we have a very high factory worker base, and wages,” LaBella said.
“That’s a two-edged sword. So we really have to look at becoming more efficient.”
With interest rates rising, liquidity winding down, and ongoing challenges from the workforce shortage, LaBella said. “It’s more important than ever to really have a strong bank relationship.”
LaBella said that when it comes to interest rates, he doesn’t see them coming down any time soon.
And when they do, it won’t be as fast as they went up.
“I think manufacturers really need to take that long-term view now of what’s going to make them more productive, reduce their cost of operations, and bring them into a better position technologically for their future growth,” he said.
One of the ways LaBella says the bank is working with manufacturers is helping them invest in new technology and smart equipment for inventory management.
“What we’re looking at more, and what companies are looking at more, is smart management systems that are out there now,” he said.
“That really will tell manufacturers when it’s time to order, what are the lead times.
“These are all things that will start to reduce costs, I believe, in the long term for manufacturers.”
Labella said banks can help manufacturers understand the bottom line of making an investment in new equipment or new technology.
“There’s a lot of things that we can look at to help manufacturers both improve their efficiency with modern equipment, and also reduce their cost of borrowing,” he said.
Investing in Workforce
And while technology is important for manufacturers dealing with increasing demand and a decreasing labor force, LaBella said there needs to be a focus on recruiting people into manufacturing.
“The new workforce, they want more than a paycheck,” he said.
“Manufacturers are investing in the community, they are very generous and philanthropic.
“And I think that needs to get out to the workforce, so people are proud to work for this company that reinvests in the community.”
LaBella said solving the labor shortage for manufacturers starts with looking at kids coming out of high school or college.
Investing in Employees
But he said companies also need to look at retaining and retraining the workforce they already have.
“Companies need to really look at ‘how do I invest in my employees?’” he said.
“While it’s keeping them happy on the personal side, but also investing in them to be able to manage the new technology of the future.”
When it comes to recruiting and retaining workers, LaBella said it will take more than the high wages companies are paying.
He said the state can help with solutions to help workers repay student loans or for more affordable housing.
“Housing is a critical component,” he said. “How do we have employees afford to live in the state and live near their job?”
“People want to be here, but we have to make it affordable for them to stay here.”
Looking for Leaders
As manufacturers look to grow, LaBella said it’s important for them to find leaders from across their workforce.
LaBella said it’s a lesson he learned as businesses navigated the pandemic.
“We saw people stepping up and becoming leaders at every level,” he said.
“Let’s make sure we nurture that and make sure that we grow that. And, you know, we can grow our workforce with the people we have, because we saw what they can do.”
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