Brian Deane

Brian Deane, president of NuTec Tooling Systems, talks about how the Fortus 360mc 3-D printer creates products used in the shop.

Manufacturing firms say they must continually work at attracting and retaining quality employees by showcasing the fact they are high tech firms requiring high tech skills — not the gritty, grimy businesses they were generations ago.

To show that off to both students and the public, firms around the area are joining in Manufacturing Day, a nationwide celebration of American manufacturing.

Two Meadville-area firms are opening their doors Friday — Acutec Precision Aerospace Inc. and NuTec Tooling Systems Inc. — at their locations in the Crawford Business Park area of Vernon Township.

The celebration continues on a regional level with the Pennsylvania Manufacturing Day expo set for Wednesday at the Bayfront Convention Center in downtown Erie. There are more than 80 exhibits plus programs and demonstrations, all designed for participants to experience innovative manufacturing technology in a hands-on, interactive way. More than 2,000 students from across the region are expected to attend the expo.

"This gives people a chance to see what manufacturers do," said Tami Adams, executive director of the Northwestern Pennsylvania chapter of the National Tooling and Machining Association, a trade group for the tooling and machining industry.

"The local plant tours on Friday get people into facilities while next week's expo is an opportunity to learn about all the types of manufacturing careers," she said. "We're looking for smart people with math aptitude and technical education training."

Acutec Precision Aerospace Inc. and NuTec Tooling Systems Inc. host scheduled tours of their respective facilities during the day Friday with Acutec also holding a public open house Friday night. Acutec, an aerospace manufacturer, is located at 13555 Broadway Drive off the Crawford Business Park’s Dunham Road entrance. NuTec, a builder of automation machinery, is located at 18114 Research Drive off South Mosiertown Road.

“We want to educate the community about manufacturing’s promising future here in the region,” said Elisabeth Smith, chief executive officer of Acutec. "Investing in the latest technologies, our employees, and our community has been a focal point for us, so we are taking this opportunity to share our role in Meadville’s development and our passion for making parts that fly.”

Acutec's evening open house events include drivable RoboBOTS battle robots, an interactive video tour of the company's machining equipment, an exhibit about the history of manufacturing in Crawford County and a paper airplanes engineering activity for children. The paper airplanes activity allows kids to design, build and test their aircraft using a station-by-station system designed to simulate Acutec’s manufacturing process.

NuTec is offering plant tours to showcase how it designs and builds machines used by other manufacturers.

"It's a good idea to offer tours and we like to show all the different types of careers available," said Brian Deane, president of NuTec. "Students and parents can talk to our employees from everything about the different types of work to the types of education to pursue." 

Finding the right people is important to manufacturing companies of all types. That's why Channellock Inc. is a major participant and sponsor in Manufacturing Day's exposition in Erie, according to Jon DeArment.

DeArment is president and chief executive officer of Channellock, a fifth-generation Meadville-based hand tool manufacturer known worldwide for its tongue-and-groove pliers and other tools with signature Channellock blue handles.

"It draws tons of kids and it gives us an opportunity to showcase to them what we do and make," DeArment said. "We show how to be part of a team and do multiple tasks. The best path isn't always straight or four-year degree."

Another long-time participant and sponsor is pet food maker Ainsworth Pet Nutrition of Meadville.

Ainsworth has participated in Manufacturing Day activities in Erie since 2010 when the Advanced Diversified Manufacturing Industry Partnership (ADMIP) held its first Tech Fest. In 2016, the ADMIP merged activities with the Manufacturer & Business Association in Erie, and Ainsworth continued to support of program by sponsoring the buses that transport students from Crawford County.

"Ainsworth decided to get involved in Manufacturing Day because of our need to continue to fill the employment pipeline with job candidates who want to work in manufacturing," said Joy Sherry, the firm's senior director for organizational development and learning.

"While Ainsworth has historically supported programs that promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curriculums, Manufacturing Day presents students with the opportunity to learn specifically about careers in manufacturing and, hopefully, build excitement for the possibilities that exist in this very critical industry," she said.

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

Tours planned on Friday

Acutec Precision Aerospace Inc. and NuTec Tooling Systems Inc. host scheduled tours of their respective facilities during the day Friday with Acutec also holding a public open house from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday with multiple hands-on and kid-friendly experiences.

Acutec, an aerospace manufacturer, is located at 13555 Broadway Drive. NuTec, a builder of automation machinery, is located at 18114 Research Drive.

Schools and other interested groups should contact Rachel Verno at rverno@acutecprecision.com today to arrange for tours for Acutec or contact NuTec at info@nutec-inc.com today for tours of its facility.

All guests are required to wear closed-toed shoes.

Manufacturing Day is Wednesday

Pennsylvania Manufacturing Day is from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Bayfront Convention Center, 1 Sassafras Pier, Erie. It features robotics demonstrations, modern manufacturing technology, presentations on innovation financing, product development, career opportunities in manufacturing, education programs geared toward technology and diverse exhibits by a multitude of regional manufacturers.

Admission is free, but those attending are asked to register by Monday via pamfgday.com.

Did you know?

Crawford County has 7,700 jobs classified as manufacturing. 

Crawford County has a heavier reliance on manufacturing than in Pennsylvania and nationwide with about 22 percent of all jobs related to manufacturing. About 10 percent of the jobs in Pennsylvania are related to manufacturing and 11 percent nationally.

In Crawford County, many of the tooling and machining shops are suppliers of tools, equipment and parts to major manufacturers. Local firms manufacture precision parts used in everything from trains, planes and automobiles to electronics to medical equipment to consumer products.

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