A Passion for Making Things

Today’s prompt for NaBloPoMo:

What is your secret (or not-so-secret) passion?

I love how these prompts make me think.  What am I passionate about?  I discarded several ideas and almost concluded that I was a passionless person until finally…eureka!

I am passionate about manufacturing.  About making things in the United States and specifically in North Carolina.

Kind of bizarre, right?

I have worked for 11 years (my second real job after college) at an organization whose mission it is to help small- and medium-sized manufacturers stay in business by helping them with process improvements, regulatory compliance and growth strategies.  We are funded by the Feds and state government, so to say I’m nervous about all the budget cuts is an understatement.   We are fortunate, though, in that our client projects are surveyed by an independent third party, so we can quantify the impacts we help clients realize.  Humor me while I brag a bit: in 4 years we helped NC manufacturers realize $1 billion in economic impact for the state.  We don’t only work with manufacturers but also government, healthcare, and other sectors.  One of the hats that I wear is to oversee our reporting requirements for our stakeholders.

So that’s the background.  When I started this job, I had never been in a manufacturing facility.  I listened to all the news reports about manufacturing being a dying industry and assumed it was true, wondering if my organization’s days were numbered if we continued to (foolishly I thought) focus on manufacturers.  Over the years, though, as I matured and began to visit facilities and discover the truth about manufacturing’s importance to the economy, how it was changing from a low-skilled industry to one demanding technologically-savvy workers, my opinion towards manufacturing began to change: manufacturing is cool AND it’s vital for our economy.

Facts

  • Did you know that manufacturing contributes the greatest percentage to NC’s GDP?
  • Did you know that NC is 4th in the nation and first in the Southeast for manufacturing productivity?
  • Did you know that NC is 3rd in the nation for manufacturing efficiency?
  • Did you know that manufacturing wages tend to be higher than wages for other sectors?
  • Did you know that one manufacturing job creates many other jobs in the community?
  • And, did you know that contrary to popular opinion, many manufacturing jobs do exist in the state and the country; the problem is that employers are having a hard time finding skilled workers.

Passion

After that litany of facts, I guess my passion for manufacturing is clear.  Over the last few years, I’ve begun to wonder how this country has come to scorn the honest work of making something with your hands.  I can’t work a drill or a CNC machine, but the enjoyment I get from digging in the dirt with bare hands or mixing a homemade cake batter seems similar.  Making things is cool.

Last year, my organization held a bus tour.  For one giddy week we travelled around the state with a tractor trailer (made in NC!) acting as a rolling museum of some 300 items made in NC.  We had everything from tortilla chips to furniture to plastic deer to high-end servers.  It was awe-inspiring to see the variety of items made here.   Even better were the presentations of manufacturers.  Their pride was evident as they explained what they made, how many they employed, whether they were hiring.  The biggest cheers came if they exported to China or other countries.

The media likes to tell the story that manufacturing is dead or dying, but that’s not true.  As a matter of fact, manufacturing has grown each of the last 27 months and is the one bright spot in an otherwise grim economy.

This English lit geek loves going into plants now.  Each one has its own story to tell, and I’m proud of being part of an organization whose mission it is to help these companies thrive and prosper.  A country that doesn’t make things will not survive, and I’m proud of efforts to promote Made in NC items.  We’re even thinking of partnering with Habitat for Humanity to build a house entirely with items made in NC; amazingly, we think it’s possible from the Caterpillar machines digging the plot to cement for the foundation to carpet to windows to appliances to patio furniture.

Hopefully my passion is contagious.  The next time you hear someone declare manufacturing unimportant to this country’s economy, please set them straight.  Manufacturing has an image problem that we need to correct before it’s too late.

Incidentally, here are a few things made in NC:

  • Holly Aiken bags
  • Wine
  • Beer
  • EMC servers
  • Electrolux appliances
  • LED lights
  • Texas Pete
  • Spanx(!)
  • Brooks Brothers shirts
  • Pergo flooring
  • Various military gear
  • Prescription drugs
  • Campbell soup
  • Goodyear tires

See a slideshow of pics.

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4 comments

  1. Great post! I feel better informed and really impressed with the products being made here in NC. My dad is retired from the furniture industry in NC and I’ve witnessed his anguish as plant after plant closed and moved overseas. So, I have probably been one of those folks who espouse ill-truths about manufacturing dying. You have done a service today with your post 🙂 Have a great weekend!

  2. Here from Mel’s Wish List…hoping *all your wishes* come true~~~

    Saw that your little boy was born via a surrogate…this is also a route my husband & I will be pursuing…loved this hopeful quote I saw from one of your back posts…

    “Never give up. You will have your family. It may not happen the way you envision or plan, but it will happen.” Thank you. These were just the words I needed to read today as I contemplate my own wishes~~~

    ps – I love trivia factoids…interesting that Spanx are made in NC!

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