Lawmakers had a simple message for Connecticut's manufacturers during Manufacturing Innovation Day at the state Capitol May 17.
Talk to us.Show us what you do.
Connecticut's 4,000 manufacturers generate an astounding $42.7 billion in economic activity each year, yet many state lawmakers admit they don't know much about manufacturing.
But they want to learn, because the more they know about the challenges manufacturers face—especially finding skilled, talented workers—the more they can help.
“You've got to invite your legislators to your business to see what you're doing,” said Sen. Kevin Witkos (R-Canton). “It's not a Democratic or Republican issue.”
Rep. Robyn Porter (D-New Haven) agreed.
“There's a lot of information out there that we need to have access to as lawmakers,” she said.
“We can't make sound decisions or be an authentic voice for companies like yours unless we're communicating back and forth with one another.”
“Listening to folks, working different layers of government to come together, it really does make a difference from a standpoint of economic activity,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk).
'No Points for Shyness'
“Today is about listening to all of you to learn about how we can improve our business here,” said Sen. Art Linares (R-Westbrook).
Sen. Joan Hartley (D-Waterbury) noted the long history of manufacturing in her district and how she has always tried to work with manufacturers to help them grow.
“It's important that you continue to talk to us and you continue to have your employees talk to us because your presence here and your message throughout the course of this session are very important,” she said.
We have a lot to brag about. Keep doing what you're doing. Keep hiring.
“There are no points for shyness,” she said.
Filling the Talent Pipeline
Manufacturing Innovation Day focused on the important role manufacturing plays in Connecticut's economy and the struggles many manufacturers face in finding the next generation of talent.
A survey CBIA released at Manufacturing Innovation Day shows that the average compensation for the 159,000-plus people employed in Connecticut manufacturing is $95,118 a year.
Lawmakers have put programs in place to fill the talent pipeline, and CBIA is supporting workforce-development bills in the current legislative session.
“We're trying to make the connection between vocational high schools, community colleges, and universities, and how we can link them to the manufacturing companies to get people employed and back to work,” Porter said.
“It all starts with education and making sure we have the workforce to thrive in manufacturing.”
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin), a vocal supporter of the state's manufacturing sector, was among the many lawmakers who toured featured exhibits at the Capitol during Manufacturing Innovation Day.Lawmakers can further help the manufacturing industry by passing several bills designed to improve workforce development.
- HB 7064 helps smaller manufacturers offset the cost of apprenticeship and gain access to a new generation of talent by extending the manufacturing apprenticeship tax credit to pass-through entities such as LLCs, partnerships and S corporations. The bill died in the Finance Committee but we are working to bring it back as part of the final state budget.
- SB 950 expands the pool of potential technical high school teachers to help address manufacturers' significant workforce needs. The bill passes the Senate and is awaiting action in the House.
- SB 974, awaiting action by the Judiciary Committee, expands the pool of potential teachers for advanced manufacturing centers to help address manufacturers' significant workforce needs.
- HB 5590, which establishes a task force to address workforce development efforts, awaits House action, as does HB 7271, which separates technical high schools from the state Department of Education to streamline their internal needs, It also awaits House action.
In addition, HB 7063 helps manufacturers—particularly small businesses without legal or consulting staff—determine the impact of proposed regulations and assess compliance requirements. That bill passed the state House and now awaits Senate action.
House Republican Leader Themis Klarides (R-Derby) said the success of Connecticut manufacturers proves that you don't have to attend college to be successful.
“It's not 'one size fits all.'”
Klarides vowed to give manufacturing “the resources that are necessary, even in these terrible fiscal times.”
Although Connecticut's budget picture casts a long shadow over the state, its manufacturing sector continues to be robust.
“There's a good sense of optimism here,” said Capri Frank of Miller Foods/Oma's Pride of Avon. “We have a lot of pride in Connecticut.”
“I do find a new sense of optimism,” said CBIA President and CEO Joe Brennan.
While Connecticut is noted for its larger manufacturers, like United Technologies, small manufacturers are equally important, Duff said.
“The untold story are the much smaller companies that are out there, chugging along, hiring people—one two, three at a time—that are continuing the work of employing folks all across the state of Connecticut.
“It really makes a huge difference.”
Duff said that, despite Connecticut's budget picture, there is a lot to be proud of.
“We have a lot to brag about here,” Duff told the manufacturers. “Keep doing what you're doing.