YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition ended 2021 not only by celebrating the successes it achieved in its first 10 years, but by setting an assertive agenda for how it will grow in 2022.
MVMC Executive Director Jessica Borza told a gathering of more than 200 members and stakeholders at a 10th anniversary gala that the workforce development organization went from “a thought in a smart guy’s [Brian Benyo] head to a flourishing, best-practice-in-the-state industry sector partnership in a relatively short time.”
And while MVMC didn’t set out to be a best practice or attract grant funding, she said, the collective work of its leaders, members and community stakeholders has done just that. The key to that success, which includes more than $24 million in funding from competitive grant opportunities, Borza said, boils down to one key attribute: collaboration.
Benyo, president of Taylor-Winfield Technologies and Brilex Industries, is credited with hatching the idea for what would become MVMC in 2011.
Facing a labor shortage and a dwindling of interest in manufacturing careers being pursued among young people, Benyo convened some industry peers for a collective brainstorming.
“I had a realization that this was our local problem,” Benyo said. “Columbus was not going to solve it. Washington was not going to solve it. We needed to do something; ‘we’ being industry.”
Today, nearly 50 manufacturers in Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties comprise MVMC’s membership. They’re joined by dozens more affiliated service providers and education partners as associate members.
In 2021, the organization’s highlights included:
• Receiving $1.5 million from the General Motors Community Support Fund in the Mahoning Valley for a two-year initiative to improve career guidance initiatives for area students and the existing workforce.
• Developing a structured upskilling training program for robotics and automation occupations.
• Initiating a strategic shared-services partnership formed with the Youngstown Business Incubator.
• Introducing fresh approaches to outreach initiatives, including to veterans, females, minorities, and the incarcerated, through grassroots marketing partnerships.
• Reaching the five-year goal of enrolling 300 registered apprentices as set in the American Apprenticeship Initiative grant.
• Being named the project manager of Ohio to Work Mahoning Valley, a statewide initiative to re-employ displaced workers in manufacturing, health care and technology jobs.
“We’re extremely appreciative of the support we’ve received from members and the community at-large and excited about the opportunities that are laid out for us to execute in 2022,” Borza said.
Many workforce development challenges remain for the organization to address, including production worker shortages at virtually all of the member manufacturers.
To address this core issue, MVMC plans on expanding recruiting initiatives, much of it through the assistance of a growing internal staff. During 2021, MVMC added four professionals to its team, including an executive assistant, two project managers and an assistant director.
Pictured: MVMC grew to six employees in 2021. From left: Julie Michael Smith, Allison Engstrom, Jessica Borza, Sue Watson, Natalie Sepulveda and Alex Hertzer.