Jobs in industry plummet in Pennsylvania

Joe Napsha
| Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011

The state's manufacturing industry lost 35 percent of its jobs over the past decade, prompting Gov. Tom Corbett to form an advisory council to identify top issues blocking growth of the industry.

"Manufacturing adds more than $75 billion in value each year to our state's economy, and it is paramount that we do all that we can to preserve and support that sector of our economy," Corbett said in a statement on Monday. The council's recommendations will strengthen manufacturing and "ultimately allow manufacturers to add jobs for Pennsylvanians," he said.

Manufacturing jobs in the state fell to 560,600 in 2010, from 864,000 in 2000. In the seven-county Pittsburgh region, manufacturing jobs have fallen from 100,500 in September 2007 to 89,600 this September.

"As manufacturers, we have a responsibility to be part of the solution by partnering with government, not relying on it, to make change for the future of manufacturing," said Carlos Cardoso, CEO of Kennametal Inc. of Unity, who was named to co-chair the council.

The 23-member panel, which will be co-chaired by C. Alan Walker, secretary of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, was directed to research issues and make recommendations to strengthen the industry. On the council are representatives from heavy machinery, minerals, pharmaceuticals, plastics and steel and textile businesses, plus manufacturing trade associations.

The group will focus on taxes and the state's regulatory climate, talent and innovation, exports, energy costs and research and development. The council will hold meetings over a six-month period beginning in January and issue a report containing recommendations and policy suggestions to the governor and the General Assembly.

The council will be led and funded by the nonprofit Team Pennsylvania Foundation, said Matt Zieger, president of Team Pennsylvania in Harrisburg. No tax money will be used, he said.

Corbett earlier this year created an advisory commission to study the exploration and production of natural gas and its environmental impact in the state. The report released this summer favored an impact fee on the gas industry, but drew criticism from environmental groups for not being stronger in its restrictions.

One of the biggest issues for manufacturers is recruiting new talent, especially for the factory jobs and metallurgy engineering positions, said David Barensfeld, CEO of Ellwood Group Inc., an Ellwood City-based manufacturer that makes engineered heavy metal sections for specialty equipment manufacturers.

"We need to train more of our own or allow more of the foreign students" to remain in the United States, Barensfeld said.

Work force issues are significant because smaller manufacturers who are hiring have difficulty in filling positions, particularly those in advanced manufacturing, said Petra Mitchell, president of Catalyst Connection, a South Oakland nonprofit that helps manufacturers in the region use lean manufacturing techniques and develop products and markets.

Two other manufacturing council members from Western Pennsylvania are Mike Williams, U.S. Steel Corp. senior vice president of North American flat-rolled operations; and Jeff Kelly, CEO of Hamill Manufacturing Co. in Penn Township.

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