Marking Manufacturing Day

Manufacturing is the largest sector of Iowa’s economy.

But to many, manufacturing jobs represent dirty, low-paying work.

That, according to local economic development experts, is a misperception – one that an event Friday is designed to dispel.

Iowa Central Community College will celebrate Manufacturing Day, a nationwide series of events designed to promote and educate Americans about the nation’s manufacturing potential. The event will run from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Bioscience and Health Science Auditorium.

The event will showcase Iowa Central’s training programs geared toward manufacturing jobs, as well as spotlighting several area manufacturers.

Iowa Central is a recent recipient grant funding from the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training program, said Shelly Blunk, director of economic development and industrial training.

That money – nearly $700,000 – will help fund efforts in two areas at the college: advanced manufacturing and welding. As part of the initiative, in August, the school took delivery of a virtual welding simulator, in which a computer screen displays precise data analyzing how well a student completed the task at hand.

With this focus, a Manufacturing Day event was “a good fit for us,” Blunk said.

According to a December 2012 report from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Iowa is home to approximately 5,980 manufacturing firms providing 211,998 jobs. More than half of these jobs are located in non-metropolitan counties, according to the report.

“Manufacturing is extremely important to the region,” said Kelly Halsted, the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance’s economic growth director.

More and more, Halsted said, manufacturers have seen the need to be close and accountable to their customers.

“Our goal is to support existing industry in the region and bring in other venues,” she said.

By providing industrial training programs geared toward the needs of specific industries, Iowa Central is important to that goal, according to Halsted.

“We support their efforts and work to get out the word,” she said.