MVMC Celebrates 10 Years and Embraces the Future
CANFIELD, Ohio – What started 10 years ago as an ad hoc group of manufacturing leaders formed to address the challenges facing local industry is today a working template for the entire state — indeed, the nation.
“You are absolutely a model,” Lydia Mihalik, director of the Ohio Department of Development, said of the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition. “You have gathered this group of private sector folks and you have said we are in control of our own destiny.”
Mihalik was the keynote speaker at the MVMC’s 10th anniversary celebration held last night at Waypoint 4180. About 200 members, supporters and guests attended the event.
“It’s humbling and amazing to look out over this group to think 10 years ago this started as an idea and a small group of manufacturers,” said Brian Benyo, MVMC’s founding member and president of Brilex Industries and Taylor Winfield Technologies. “To see what it’s grown into is amazing.”
Since it was established in 2011, the MVMC has attracted more than 90 members, 49 of which are manufacturers in the Mahoning Valley. In addition to industry members, the group includes partners such as workforce development professionals and education organizations such as Eastern Gateway Community College, Mahoning County Career and Technical Center, Trumbull Career and Technical Center and Columbiana Career and Technical Center.
Benyo recalled that 10 years ago, the country was reeling from a devastating recession, while it was difficult for companies to secure qualified employees to fill open manufacturing positions. “At that time, there was a lot of competition between ourselves and our competitors,” he said. “And, the realization [came] that none of this was leading to a future that we could sustain our businesses around.”
Local training providers were struggling, and there was little momentum in attracting a new flow of talent toward manufacturing and career pathways, Benyo noted. Meantime, the oil and gas boom that hit the area during that time placed even more pressure on the manufacturing labor force, as workers gravitated to that industry for employment.
The situation led Benyo to an “epiphany.” he says, that it was not the obligation of training professionals or state or federal agencies to solve these problems – it was the duty of private manufacturers to find a way out.
A handful of founding members gathered to start a discussion as to how to grow the area’s manufacturing workforce through collective action, Benyo said, and the MVMC was born.
Among the most effective accomplishments was naming Jessica Borza as the group’s executive director, Benyo said.
“I had an inkling that I would love this project,” Borza told the audience. “It’s been more than a project.”
Borza said it was important to draw support from not just manufacturers, but from education and workforce training professionals as well.
“What we have built together is a system of partners working together,” she said. “We can turn to our manufacturers and say we need your most expert robotics technicians to come to a few meetings to help us shape these programs and our education partners are going to listen.”
MVMC has spearheaded credentialed training programs while creating new pipelines for recruiting young talent, those looking to change careers and those seeking to improve their skills, Borza said.
“We’ve got commitments from manufacturers to hire more young people than ever before,” either through the pre-apprenticeship program or the organization’s manufacturing mentorship program.
“Our leaders have invested countless hours in shaping the work that we do,” Borza said.
Development Director Mihalik said Ohio has a rich history in manufacturing excellence and innovation – fertile ground to grow the future of manufacturing, especially advanced manufacturing.
“Ohio’s role as a leader in advanced manufacturing is more vital than ever as companies embrace new ways of making things,” she said. “With additive manufacturing, with automation, with advance materials and new technology.”
Ethan Karp, president and CEO of Cleveland-based Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network, or Magnet, said it’s important for manufacturers to innovate, integrate new technology into their operations, create new pipelines of talent into their companies, and harness leadership.
“I believe what we’re seeing here today is the best example of how those things come together,” Karp said. “How we can partner to truly make the next 50 years amazing for our economy, our people and our manufacturers.”
Since 2011, MVMC has secured more than $24.2 million in grants devoted to strengthening the region’s manufacturing workforce. Its group-sponsored apprenticeship programs include machinists, welders/fitters, and industrial maintenance. A fourth program in robotics technician is in development.
The group has also taken an aggressive approach in manufacturing outreach, taking the message of rewarding careers in manufacturing to classrooms, job fairs and other events, Borza said.
Among the more recent partnerships include the Youngstown Business Incubator, BRITE Energy Innovators, the National Center for Urban Solutions and United Returning Citizens.
“We continue to grow, we continue to improve,” Borza said. “We didn’t set out to be a best practice, we didn’t set out to attract a bunch of grant funding. We just set out to do some really important and meaningful work.”
Pictured at top: Brian Benyo, MVMC’s founding member and president of Brilex Industries and Taylor Winfield Technologies.
Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.